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Friday, November 03, 2006

Blue New Hampshire

Like most political scientists, I have been intrigued by this mid-year election. Putting aside my own prejudices (which is really tough these days) and trying to assume a neutral (even skeptical) stance, I have not been carried away with by the punditry which that sees this as a "wave" election equivalent to 1974 or 1994. However, after a meeting yesterday I am beginning to think that this may be a wave -- and perhaps more substantial than most commentators are willing to project.

Yesterday I briefly sat in on an informal weekly lunch meeting of some folks who are keen and expert observers of the local (meaning statewide) political scene in New Hampshire. Although I reside in Massachusetts -- the state regarded as politically the blue-est of the blue, despite its tendency to elect Republican governors -- I work in "purple-ish" New Hampshire, a state inclined much more toward "red-ness" ("Live Free or Die!" is the famous state motto). (See here for blue-red info.)

But NH is also as proudly "political" as any in the US (the presidential primary is a major part of the culture as well as the economy), and the attention paid to politics comes (literally) with the territory. So when you see trends shaping in NH, you know that something is going on. And the data circulating around the lunch table certainly indicates a trend in the form of a potential shift of NH from toss-up red to firmly blue.

Andy Smith, director of the UNH survey research center, circulated the latest tracking poll his folks had completed for WMUR-TV, the only major TV station in NH. There was no doubt that the numbers were in the Democratic Party's favor -- so much so that there is a good chance they will add both houses of the state legislature to their control of the governor's office, and have a good shot at replacing both GOP US House members with Democrats. If those numbers are right -- and Smith's shop is pretty damn competent -- then the only somewhat Republican-leaning state in New England is about to make the northeast US truly and solidly blue. It is not hard to speculate that if either of the US Senate seats were up this year (both held by popular GOP incumbents), they would certainly be vulnerable....

Bottom line -- and relying on these indicators from tiny NH -- is that this election may actually be one of those watershed (I would not yet say "critical") events in US politics. After all, if NH is going blue, then it is likely that many more traditionally red states are doing the same. Perhaps my distorted view of NH as a true-red state is drawing me to unwarranted speculations. But, oh, wouldn't it be interesting....

(Follow-up: Andy Smith's analysis of his tracking poll also showed up in this AM's Boston Globe...)


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