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Capital Beat

Why so much love for N.H. this election? Electoral math

We’ve always suspected that New Hampshire is a special place, and now we have proof. Why else would Barack and Michelle Obama, Joe and Jill Biden and Mitt and Ann Romney all plan to visit within the space of five days? It’s all about maps, and math.

The one number that really matters on Nov. 6 is 270, the number of electoral votes it takes to be elected president.

With a close race and just a handful of states still close enough to be up in the air, New Hampshire’s four votes could decide who occupies the White House.

“Obama may have a slightly easier chance winning without New Hampshire, but not much,” said

Tom Rath, a longtime GOP strategist and adviser to Romney. “I think both sides desperately want to win New Hampshire. And I think, if the president loses New Hampshire, the firewall is going to start to crumble across the country.”

Here’s how it looks to Nate Silver, keeper of The New York Times’s FiveThirtyEight blog. As of Friday, he was predicting a 2.9 percent chance that New Hampshire would provide the decisive electoral vote on Election Day. That’s the eighth-highest rating in the country, way behind Ohio (49.8 percent) but certainly nothing to sneer at.

Looking at the swing states, let’s say Obama takes Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Iowa, and Romney wins Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio. That would make New Hampshire the decisive state, either putting Obama over the top with 272 votes or putting Romney in the White House with 270 votes.

If this feels kind of familiar, it should. Florida got all the attention in 2000, but if Al Gore had won the Granite State, he would have defeated George W. Bush regardless of what happened down south. But neither campaign was spending this kind of time, energy and money on New Hampshire.

“You hate to look back and the coulda, shoulda, woulda,” said Kathy Sullivan, who was then chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “But no, the Gore campaign did not pay the kind of attention to New Hampshire that the president’s campaign is paying to New Hampshire.”

So that’s why the campaign schedules called for Jill Biden to be here Friday, President Obama to drop in yesterday, Joe Biden and Ann Romney to be here tomorrow and Mitt Romney and Michelle Obama to be around on Tuesday. (Those plans, however, were subject to cancellation due to Hurricane Sandy, with the first lady calling off her trip Friday evening.) Both campaigns claim large and sophisticated getout- the-vote operations. TV ads are blanketing the airwaves. And polls show a close race in the state – a big change from 2008, Rath noted, when polls showed Obama had taken a decisive lead over John McCain by mid-October.

“This is different. This goes right to the end,” Rath said. “I think even if you know what’s coming through Wednesday, there’s going to be more coming through to Tuesday. . . . They both really want to win it.”

And a win here means more to both sides than a mere four electoral votes.

Rath said New Hampshire represents Romney’s best chance of flipping a state that in 2008 went for Obama north of Virginia and east of Ohio. If New Hampshire is called early on election night, he said, that could help with bigger states out west, where the polls close later.

Sullivan said an Obama win could help other Democrats running down the ballot.

“We saw that in 2004, when John Kerry won New Hampshire and John Lynch defeated an incumbent first-term governor, which had not happened in modern political history,” she said – though she noted that Lynch himself had something to do with that win.

Whoever wins New Hampshire, Rath said, a close race is good news for those who fight every four years to protect the state’s place at the head of the presidential primary process.

“It’s really good news for the primary, because it demonstrates our purple-ness. . . . We’re a genuine swing state,” he said.

“We’re as purple as they get.”

The Coffey Chronicles

Watch state Rep. Jenn Coffey on the floor of the House and you’d think she was swaddled from infancy in the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

An Andover Republican, Coffey is pro-gun, anti-regulation and well-versed in the Constitution. She could be the poster girl for the Free State Project, the Republican Liberty Caucus and the Second Amendment Sisters.

It was Coffey, after all, who sponsored a bill last year requiring the state to post warning signs at the Massachusetts border so gun owners wouldn’t be caught unaware in the anti-gun Bay State.

Turns out, that’s the new Jenn Coffey.

Seven years ago, Coffey was a Massachusetts resident (true!) who viewed her husband’s political rants about government intrusion as “background noise,” according to an autobiography she’s written. The title is fantastic: Knives, Lipstick and Liberty.

“There were times when (my husband) Billy would point out certain things about the direction our country was headed in, and I would nod my head in a ‘Yes, Dear’ fashion and then forget about it,” Coffey writes. “Sometimes I would tell him he was nuts and getting into conspiracy junk.”

The couple argued over radio stations: he wanted to listen to “political crap” and she wanted to hear music.

That all changed one day in 2004 when Coffey went to work and had to scan her fingerprints to clock in. Then she started hearing about the Patriot Act.

By that summer, the Coffey was on board with her husband and decided to leave Massachusetts. They looked at two states Florida (her pick) and New Hampshire (his). Turns out, Billy Coffey had already been chatting online with New Hampshire Free Staters and had even voted with them in 2003 to make New Hampshire their headquarters Among other things, Coffey’s book shows why the Free State Project is so appealing to newcomers: When the family arrived in New Hampshire, Coffey quietly ill with a medical condition, they were greeted by a huge group of strangers ready to move them in. They’d all connected with the Coffeys through the Free State Project.

In no time, Coffey was running for state representative, leading the Second Amendment Sisters gun advocacy group, introducing legislation for Pro-Gun New Hampshire and becoming a Republic Liberty Alliance star.

Coffey has a nice writing voice, and Knives, Lipstick and Liberty is a quick read complete with appearances from Free Staters, Ron Paul and gun rights activists.

The book is published by Elkinbow Ink of Salisbury and is available at lulu.com for $19.99.

Cornerstone’s loaded

Cornerstone Action is packing some financial heat these days.

The Manchester-based conservative group’s political action committee had more than $86,000 in the bank as of Oct. 15, a big improvement from the $871.14 it counted up following the Sept. 11 primary.

And almost all of that cash came from one place: Citizen-Link, a Colorado-based affiliate of the James Dobsonfounded Focus on the Family, which gave Cornerstone a cool $85,000.

And yes, this is the same Cornerstone that in September filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office because New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom & Equality got a $100,000 donation from Paul Singer of New York.

After all, Cornerstone said, state law prohibits donations greater than $5,000.

“Cornerstone works very hard to follow the law to the letter to support the traditional, natural family in New Hampshire and our PAC is quite limited by the law in what it can do to support candidates who will defend traditional marriage,” Acting Executive Director Shannon McGinley said in a statement at the time.

But Attorney General Michael Delaney has said the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision means the state can’t enforce that limit for donations to groups that only make independent expenditures. We left a message with Cornerstone but didn’t hear back.

Whatever the reason for its change of heart, Cornerstone seems to be getting ready to spend that cash.

The group filed a report with the secretary of state’s office last week saying it was putting down money on a radio ad on behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne and in opposition to his opponent, Democrat Maggie Hassan.

As for New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom & Equality, it’s continuing to spend money to support progay marriage Republicans, including representatives who voted against the gaymarriage repeal bill back in March. The group last week dropped nearly $146,000 on direct mail, it disclosed in a filing.

That came after Singer put up another $140,000 for the group, said Executive Director Tyler Deaton.

“We’ve just gone out of our way to be very transparent,” Deaton said, “and we’re running a very positive campaign, 100 percent positive.”

Brat PAC vs. Nyquist

The Brat PAC has Andy Sanborn’s back in Senate District 9.

The Liberty for All Super PAC-NH on Oct. 20 disclosed an independent expenditure of more than $7,000 for direct mail against Lee Nyquist, the New Boston Democrat who faces Sanborn, a Republican and owner of The Draft in Concord, in the race for the open seat.

(Sanborn resigned his Senate seat to move into the district earlier this year.) When it registered with the secretary of state’s office in August, the group described its purpose as “to elect liberty candidates,” and said it would be making independent expenditures to support Sanborn and oppose his GOP primary opponent, Ken Hawkins.

And what is the Liberty for All Super PAC?

According to the Times, it’s financed by a wealthy Texas college student named John Ramsey, who met a Kentucky political operative named Preston Bates while working on Paul’s presidential campaign and decided to create a super PAC to back candidates “who will carry Mr. Paul’s libertarian flame.”

Makes sense: Sanborn endorsed Paul ahead of January’s presidential primary.

Ah, but here’s the good part: the group’s nickname, according to the Times, is the “Brat PAC.”

Anti-amendment effort

Opponents of two proposed constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot are starting to ramp up their efforts.

Supporters of the first amendment, which would ban an income tax, are already organized as the “No Income Tax PAC,” headed up by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith.

The second amendment, which would allow the Legislature to write rules for state courts, has gotten somewhat less attention.

But here comes “Protect New Hampshire’s Constitution,” which filed its papers with the secretary of state’s office Oct. 19. It’s chaired by Peg Fargo, vice president of the state chapter of the League of Women Voters, with former Democratic state senator Harold Janeway as treasurer.

But Fargo said the group – a coalition of organizations including the league, Granite State Progress, the State Employees’ Association and the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute – has been watching the process for a while, and is sending out speakers to community events as well as printing up signs.

The coalition opposes both amendments, and also urges people to vote no on a third ballot question, which would call a state constitutional convention for the first time since 1984.

“There’s not really a need for any of the amendments right now,” Fargo said.

Sununu’s a theory

John H. Sununu just can’t seem to help himself sometimes.

The former New Hampshire governor and top Romney campaign surrogate was on CNN Thursday night to talk about Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama. Powell is the Republican former secretary of state who also endorsed Obama ahead of the 2008 election.

“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to look at whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or he’s got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama,” Sununu said, according to CNN.

In case you missed what he was getting at, Sununu added, “I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”

Sununu backed off his racial theory in a subsequent statement.

“Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the president’s policies,” he said.

NEC in the mix

New England College is getting in on the polling game. The Henniker school on Friday unveiled a new polling unit. Its first automated survey showed Obama leading Romney, 49 percent to 46 percent, and a tie in the gubernatorial race, with Lamontagne and Hassan at 45 percent apiece. The survey, conducted Oct. 23-25, had a 4.1 percent margin of error.

So does this mean NEC is looking to snag business from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center?

“I think there’s plenty to go around, actually,” said professor of political science Wayne Lesperance.

Watching Ayotte

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte is quite the woman, according to

The Hill.

The Capitol Hill newspaper last week listed the Republican senator on its “25 Women to Watch” list, noting her swift rise in the party as a voice on foreign policy.

And yet, the newspaper said, “Despite her new prominence on the national stage, Ayotte still flies home every weekend to spend time with her 8-year-old daughter and 5year-old son.”

Lynch raising cash

Hassan is getting some fundraising help from U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. John Lynch.

The Democratic gubernatorial nominee is holding a fundraiser tomorrow at Boynton’s Taproom in Manchester, with Shaheen and Lynch as “special guests.” Tickets cost $50, and are available at sponsorship levels up to “host” for $1,000.

Lynch, who remains extraordinarily popular as he approaches the end of his fourth term in office, endorsed Hassan earlier this month. But since that press conference, he hasn’t hit the trail again to campaign for her.

In case you’re counting, tomorrow’s fundraiser comes eight days before the election.

Baldasaro’s back

State Rep. Al Baldasaro seems to be feeling better.

The pugnacious Londonderry Republican, who had a heart attack Oct. 4 at the State House, was back at the Legislative Office Building last Wednesday to crash an Obama campaign press conference with George Mitchell, the former Maine senator and diplomat.

Baldasaro, a retired Marine, apparently doesn’t like Obama’s Afghanistan policy and the 2014 deadline to withdraw most troops.

“It’s a suicide mission, and you know it,” Baldasaro told Mitchell, according to video posted by The Lobby website. “I’m shocked and amazed that you as a senator would stand here in New Hampshire and embarrass New Hampshire and state that Obama’s doing a great job.”

Leave knifes and explosives at home

To celebrate his final debate with Democrat Carol Shea-Porter tomorrow night, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta is hosting an after party at Drynk in Manchester. The campaign will shuttle supporters from the nightclub to the debate studio and back for food and drinks.

We hope all goes well. This time last year, the police responded to a fistfight at the club and found a man who’d been stabbed. Then days later, Drynk owner Thomas Svoleantopoulos was cited for violating a city ordinance after his employees were caught setting off loads of fireworks from the roof and an alley while 400 patrons partied inside.

To go, contact kory@teamguinta.com or call 836-5620. Watch your back. And your head.

Pats on the back

• U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass will be honored tomorrow by the National Association of Manufacturers for supporting bills the group says keep the manufacturing business strong. Bass, a Republican, supported 70 percent of the trade group’s bills. The group is traveling the country this month honoring other lawmakers, too.

• State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, a Meredith Republican, was chosen by the New Hampshire Health Care Association for its annual legislative service award.

Forrester was selected for creating a commission to study the costs long-term care hospitals incur when the state reject’s a patient’s request for Medicaid.

• Outgoing Sen. Matthew Houde, a Plainfield Democrat, has been named legislator of the year by RESOLVE New England, an advocacy group that supports families struggling with infertility. Houde was chosen for his work fighting a House bill last year that would have made fetuses victims in murder cases.

Opponents feared the legislation, which included the embryonic stage of a fetus, would interfere with fertility treatments. Lynch vetoed the bill in June.

• Shaheen is being inducted tomorrow into the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence’s Hall of Fame for, among other things, her efforts to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

• Lynch is picking up a couple of awards this week. Today, he’s getting the Walter R. Peterson Education and Public Service Award from the Community College System of New Hampshire. On Thursday, he’ll collect the Fire Service Award of Excellence at the state Division of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services.

• Hassan was endorsed by the New Hampshire Police Association and the New Hampshire Troopers’ Association, as well as The Keene Sentinel.

• Lamontagne picked up endorsements from Foster’s Daily Democrat, The Conway Daily Sun and the New Hampshire Union Leader.

• Republican Chris Sununu’s re-election bid was endorsed by Ruth Griffin of Portsmouth, the Republican who held his seat on the Executive Council for two decades.

• Democrat Colin Van Ostern, also running for a seat on the Executive Council, picked up an endorsement from Shaheen.

• And Bob Burns, the Republican candidate for the Executive Council seat being vacated by Republican Ray Wieczorek, got the former Manchester mayor’s endorsement Friday.

Debate disappointment

The Libertarians aren’t happy that they won’t be in this week’s Granite State Debate series on WMUR.

Gubernatorial candidate John Babiarz, 1st District candidate Brendan Kelly and 2nd District candidate Hardy Macia put out a press release last week condemning their exclusion. WMUR, they said, told them that the station used “good-faith journalistic judgment and objective factors including polling” in deciding whom to invite, and the Libertarians didn’t make the cut.

Macia – who previously caught our eye with a clever zombie-themed campaign video – went further, posting a YouTube video of himself receiving chemotherapy at Lakes Region General Hospital.

(Macia was diagnosed a couple of months ago with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.) “My chances are better at defeating the cancer than it is to be included in the upcoming Granite State Debates,” Macia, clad in a hospital gown, says in the video. “This isn’t fair for New Hampshire voters. You should be able to hear from all three of the candidates for Congress.”

Even if we won’t see him in Tuesday night’s debate, we wish Macia the best of luck with his treatment.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter@BenLeubsdorf.Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323 or atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter@annmarietimmins.)

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