New Hamp­shire’s new vot­ers are crit­i­cal for both par­ties

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - David Shrib­man

INTERVALE, N.H. — Oh, no! Not New Hamp­shire again! Not another el­egy to those flinty and finicky vot­ers! No, not that!

Yes, that. Be­cause when we last left the state, back in pre­co­ro­n­avirus times, the Pres­i­den­tial Range was draped in snow, Sen. Bernie San­ders of Ver­mont and for­mer Mayor Pete But­tigieg of South Bend, In­di­ana, both had cap­tured nine Demo­cratic con­ven­tion del­e­gates, and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. was buried in a dis­tant fifth place. Only one in 12 vot­ers sup­ported him.

Now we are back, and if you stand at the vista here by the White Moun­tain High­way, you will see wild­flow­ers in the fore­ground, leaves chang­ing bril­liantly in the val­ley, and, in the dis­tance, the Pres­i­den­tial Range draped in late-sum­mer sun­shine. But the po­lit­i­cal sea­son has changed, too. We have a new per­spec­tive on pres­i­den­tial ranges in gen­eral: Bi­den is the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia (who folded her cam­paign even be­fore the pri­mary here) is his run­ning mate, and once again this state is a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle­ground of great con­se­quence.

How can that be? New Hamp­shire, once as re­li­ably Repub­li­can as the but­ter-and­sugar sweet corn is re­li­ably ready for pick­ing in Au­gust, has voted for the Democrats in six of the last seven elec­tions — and it would have been seven straight had in­de­pen­dent Ralph Nader not si­phoned off 22,198 from Vice Pres­i­dent Al­bert Gore’s sup­port in 2000.

But here’s why Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dropped in here re­cently, why Democrats are mo­bi­liz­ing as if they are pre­par­ing for a win­ter nor’easter, and why never-Trumper Repub­li­cans are or­ga­niz­ing in a way in­de­pen­dent-minded party mem­bers haven’t done since Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador to Saigon, was the stun­ning ben­e­fi­ciary of a write-in cam­paign that ac­tu­ally won the 1964 New Hamp­shire pri­mary:

Trump lost this state and its tiny (but per­haps con­se­quen­tial in a close con­test) haul of four elec­toral votes by a mar­gin of only 2,736 four years ago. To put that num­ber in hard­scrab­ble gran­ite per­spec­tive wor­thy of the White Moun­tains here, that’s about one-quar­ter the num­ber of votes that Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard won in the Demo­cratic pri­mary in Fe­bru­ary, and you prob­a­bly have for­got­ten that she even ran and never ac­tu­ally knew who she was.

This kind of fevered pol­i­tics is, to be sure, un­usual here. From 1920 to 1988 — from the pres­i­den­tial can­di­da­cies of War­ren Hard­ing to Ge­orge H.W. Bush — the Gran­ite State de­vi­ated from the Repub­li­can column only four times, three for Franklin Roo­sevelt and once for Lyn­don B. John­son in the Texan’s 1964 land­slide over Sen. Barry Gold­wa­ter. In that pe­riod, Repub­li­cans ba­si­cally sat back and watched that hand­ful of elec­toral votes slip ef­fort­lessly into the GOP slot.

Now there is a dif­fer­ent New Hamp­shire — and it has grown even more dif­fer­ent in re­cent years.

New Hamp­shire once was a re­mote colony of Yan­kees who pretty much stayed put and stayed the same. But now this is one of the fastest-chang­ing states in the union.

In­deed, from that 2000 elec­tion, where Nader played such a piv­otal role, to 2008, when Sen. Barack Obama of Illi­nois pre­vailed, fully a third of po­ten­tial vot­ers ac­tu­ally were dif­fer­ent peo­ple than the elec­torate be­fore the turn of the cen­tury; they were peo­ple who ei­ther were not 18 at the end of the 20th cen­tury or didn’t live in the state. That phe­nom­e­non oc­curred again be­tween 2008 and 2016. That churn is chill­ing news for the Repub­li­cans, and thus for Trump.

“The newer peo­ple and younger peo­ple are more likely to iden­tify as Democrats,” said An­drew Smith, a Uni­ver­sity of New Hamp­shire poll­ster, “as the younger peo­ple look to that party and some older peo­ple ei­ther die or move to Florida.”

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