New Hampshire: Small But Crucial For November New Hampshire has become an important battleground this year, because with the presidential race so close, even small states are crucial. John McCain, who won the GOP presidential primary in both 2000 and 2008, is the kind of Republican who appeals to independents there.
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New Hampshire: Small But Crucial For November

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New Hampshire: Small But Crucial For November

New Hampshire: Small But Crucial For November

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Say what you want about Sarah Palin, she's got Republicans giving to the presidential campaign of John McCain. The McCain campaign had its best fundraising month ever bringing in $47 million in August. But Barack Obama's campaign raised much more last month, $66 million, which is a record for any presidential candidate ever.


Of course, money is only part of the equation, although sometimes it seems like it is the whole equation. Another part is the map. Two hundred seventy electoral votes will make you president. And in a close election, every state, large and small, counts. That brings us and the candidates to New Hampshire and its four electoral votes. Both men were there over the weekend, as NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR: McCain made his stop at the Sylvania 300, a NASCAR race in Loudon, New Hampshire. With his wife, Cindy, McCain met with drivers and car owners and briefly addressed the crowd, both there and those watching at home, before drivers were told to start their engines.

(Soundbite of applause)

Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona; 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee): Thank you. It's great, great to be back in the great state of New Hampshire for the first chase for the cup race here in the great state of New Hampshire.

NAYLOR: In Manchester, meanwhile, the state's largest city, Paula Baker(ph) was watching another kind of race as her daughter competed in a 5K run, finishing first among the female entrants. A resident of Derry, Baker says she's made up her mind who to support in November, and it's McCain. The reason...

Ms. PAULA BAKER (New Hampshire Resident): I really like Sarah Palin a lot. I really agree with a lot of her, you know, the issues that she's talked about. And I've been watching her speeches and interviews, and I'm really impressed.

NAYLOR: Baker, a mother and grandmother, says she's pro-life, the primary reason she intends to vote for the Republican ticket. Raymond, New Hampshire, resident Richard Masingle(ph) works in electronics. He says he's looking forward to retirement, and that he's made up his mind, too, and plans to vote for Obama.

Mr. RICHARD MASINGLE (New Hampshire Resident): Change. There will be change. I'd say I would have voted Republican before this, but it's time for some change.

NAYLOR: Sonny Winseck(ph), wearing a Red Sox cap, was loading her daughter into the family's SUV. She says she's undecided between Obama and McCain. An assistant to an oral surgeon, Winseck says the economy and health care are important issues for her. She notes she does not have health insurance.

Ms. SONNY WINSECK (New Hampshire Resident): No because one, is costs too much, even through my employer. And the economy is falling on its face. Between gas prices and living with someone that's worked with the oil companies, and his input compared to what we pay just doesn't kind of really pan out, so...

NAYLOR: Several thousand supporters came to hear Barack Obama at a rally at a Manchester park on Saturday. Obama addressed the very issue at the top of Winseck's concerns.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; 2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee): 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. We're going to do it by the end of my first term as president. That's the change that you need, New Hampshire.

NAYLOR: New Hampshire used to be reliably Republican, but that's changing. While George W. Bush carried the state in 2000, in 2004 it went for Democrat John Kerry. 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. He remains popular in New Hampshire, winning the GOP primaries in 2000 and earlier this year. Scala says the maverick image McCain claims goes over well with independent-minded voters. But, he notes, it won't be easy.

Dr. DANTE SCALA (Professor of Political Science, University of New Hampshire): John McCain may give the party a jolt, perhaps, or there may be enough juice left to get John McCain elected. 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.

NAYLOR: With just four electoral votes, New Hampshire is not likely to get as much attention from the presidential candidates as big swing states like Ohio and Florida. But neither side can afford to ignore the granite state. After all, had Al Gore won here in 2000, he, not Mr. Bush, might now be completing his second term. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Manchester, New Hampshire.

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