Trump, Clinton beef up operations in swing state N.H.

  • This photo combo of file images shows U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump, left, and Hillary Clinton. Income inequality has been a rallying cry of the 2016 election, with more Americans turning fearful and angry about a shrinking middle class. Trump has pledged to restore prosperity by ripping up trade deals and using tariffs to return manufacturing jobs from overseas. Clinton has backed a debt-free college option and higher minimum wages to help the middle class. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Chuck Burton) Mary Altaffer and Chuck Burton

Monitor staff
Published: 8/5/2016 1:39:46 AM

Democrats have run nearly 300 phone banks and 40 house parties in the past eight weeks in a broad push to engage voters. Republicans are planning to soon open 11 field offices across New Hampshire to coordinate canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts.

With less than 100 days until the presidential election, the battle to win New Hampshire’s four electoral votes is on.

Among the several swing states that traditionally decide presidential elections, the Granite State is the smallest prize, offering a mere fraction of the 270 Electoral College votes the winner needs to secure.

Yet despite the state’s small stature, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are beefing up their campaign operations aimed at getting out the vote come November.

“Nobody is taking any chances with New Hampshire,” said Dartmouth College government professor Linda Fowler.

The state could be a decisive factor in the presidential race, and the candidates’ ability to turn out voters will likely play a big role in New Hampshire’s down-ticket races, from U.S. Senate to governor.

The Granite State has leaned Democratic in recent presidential elections – five out of the last six to be exact – which has given a boost to down-ballot candidates on the left. But Trump energized new primary voters this year, which could benefit the GOP at the polls.

Clinton leads Trump in New Hampshire, according to recent polling averages from Real Clear Politics. But both candidates are very unpopular among voters and have negative favorability ratings, according to a recent WMUR Granite State Poll. That leaves the race an open contest, analysts say.

Support for Clinton and Trump splits along gender and education, in line with national trends. While Trump leads among male voters, Clinton leads among women. Clinton leads 62 percent to 14 percent among voters with a post-graduate education, the WMUR Granite State Poll showed, while Trump leads 54 to 27 percent among voters with no higher than a high school degree.

In the months ahead, Trump will have to persuade moderate Republican women to vote for him, while Clinton must win over Bernie Sanders supporters.

Both efforts will take a solid ground game.

Democrats have been building an operation for weeks, and have so far opened 10 “New Hampshire Together” organizing offices across the state. According to a Clinton campaign memo circulated among reporters last week, the organizing effort has held more than 200 canvass events across the state to contact voters and get them to support all Democrats, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running for U.S. Senate.

“It makes a huge difference,” said Kathy Sullivan, a Democratic National Committeewoman. “There’s a real effort being made right now to reach out to grassroots.”

That is also happening on the Republican side, but the activity is kicking into gear late. The Republican National Committee planned to fund 20 field staffers, but in May the party had gotten virtually none of the promised workers, Politico reported.

Trump supporter Fred Doucette said the Republican organizing effort now has leases in place for at least 11 field offices across the state, and is running get-out-the-vote training sessions. “We’ve been ramped up for quite some time,” Doucette said.

Ground game, organizing voters and getting people to the polls can help tilt an election. The most recent New Hampshire presidential contests have been decided by less than 10 percentage points, with some separated by less than 10,000 votes. Republican George W. Bush defeated Democrat Al Gore in the state by 7,211 votes in 2000.

“Presidential elections come down to about 10 states,” said New England College Political Science Professor Wayne Lesperance. “We don’t have a lot (of Electoral College votes), but in a very, very close election, even the few we have can matter.”

Over the past 10 presidential contests, New Hampshire has picked five Democrats and five Republicans. Eight have been winners. Only Democrat John Kerry in 2004 and Republican Gerald Ford in 1976 won New Hampshire in the general election but failed to win the White House.

Democrats have fared well more recently. The last Republican to win the state’s presidential contest was Bush in 2000. President Obama carried the state both in 2008 and in 2012.

Efforts made by top campaigns can have a trickle down effect on local races. While presidential elections are decided by hundreds of thousands of ballots, local races can see just a couple of votes determine the race.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)


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