Republican Sen. John McCain addresses fans, as his wife, Cindy, stands by before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 14, 2008.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain recently made a campaign stop at the Sylvania 300, a NASCAR race in Loudon., N.H. Along with his wife, McCain met with drivers and car owners and then briefly addressed the crowd before the drivers started their engines.:
"It's great to be back in the great state of New Hampshire for the first chase for the cup race," he said.
New Hampshire is one the states the candidates are targeting in the final weeks of the election. While fundraising certainly remains a large part of the equation, the electoral map and the 270 electoral votes will also play a big role in what potentially could be a close race.
New Hampshire is expected to be a battleground state, with its four electoral votes. McCain remains popular there, winning the GOP primaries in 2000 and earlier this year. Obama won 36 percent of the vote in January's Democratic primary, coming in second behind Clinton. But New Hampshire residents have also appreciated Obama's message of change.
Hearing From N.H. Voters
In Manchester, the state's largest city, voter Paula Baker says she has made up her mind as to who to support in November. Although she likes McCain, she says his choice of running mate really influenced her decision.
"I really like Sarah Palin a lot. I really agree with a lot of... the issues that she's talking about, and I've been watching her speeches and interviews and I'm really impressed," she says.
Baker, a mother and grandmother, says she is pro-life and counts this fact as the primary reason she intends to vote for the Republican ticket.
Another voter named Richard Massingill works in electronics. He says he's looking forward to retirement and has made up his mind to vote for Obama.
"I would say I would have voted Republican before this, but its time for some change," he says.
Sunny Winsek is an undecided voter. As an assistant to an oral surgeon, Winsek says the economy and health care are important issues for her, in part, because she does not have health insurance.:
"It costs too much even through my employer, and the economy is falling on its face between gas prices and living with someone who's worked with the oil companies," she said.
But she says she does not expect the candidates to directly address those concerns. "I have my own views on politics. I think they're going to say what people want to hear," she said.
New Hampshire Shifts From Solidly Republican
Several thousand supporters came to hear Obama, at a rally at a Manchester park on Saturday. Obama addressed the very issue at the top of Winsek's concerns.
"And if you don't have health care, you can get the same health care that a member of Congress gets for themselves, and we are not going to wait 20 years from now to do it or 10 years from now to do it," he said. "We're going to do it by the end of my first term as president. That's the change that you need New Hampshire."
New Hampshire used to be reliably Republican, but that's changing. While President Bush carried the state in 2000, it went for Democrat John Kerry in 2004. Two years later, voters ousted the state's two Republicans in the House, and Democrats hold the governor's office and both chambers in the state legislature.
Political science professor Dante Scala of the University of New Hampshire says John McCain could still carry the state. Scala says the maverick image McCain claims goes over well with independent minded voters. But he notes, it will not be easy.
"John McCain may give the party a jolt, perhaps, or there may be enough juice left to get John McCain elected," he said. "But there's no question that the wind, the larger wind, is at Barack Obama's back, not John McCain's. John McCain is going to have to create his own wind his own momentum in the state," he said.
With just four electoral votes, New Hampshire is not likely to get as much attention from the presidential candidates as big swing states such as Ohio and Florida. But neither side can afford to ignore the granite state. After all, had Al Gore had won here in 2000, he might now be completing his second term rather than George W. Bush.