Spencer Rendahl: Swing State

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(Host) The stakes in the 2012 election are high, and New Hampshire will play a
key role in it as a swing state. But commentator Suzanne Spencer Rendahl
has noticed a humorous angle to the Granite State’s pivotal role.

It used to be that most of the political fun of living in New Hampshire
ended as the last bits of confetti hit hotel ballroom floors on our
first-in-the-nation primary night. Our suitors wasted no time leaving
our tundra-like winter landscape for South Carolina’s warmer, greener
pastures. I remember being ditched by Ron Paul’s campaign in the middle
of the night last January. No more calls. No more junk mail. Not even a
robocall thanking me for the good times we’d had. I felt so used.

now New Hampshire has become a swing state and our four uncommitted
electoral votes could tip this election. So President Barack Obama,
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and Vice President Joe
Biden have been courting us with regular campaign visits.

this is the state where you can legally drive your motorcycle – without a
helmet or insurance – to the liquor outlet store at your local highway
rest stop. This state is so frugal that for many years it couldn’t let
perfectly good roadkill go to waste, so state employees collected
carcasses, stored them in a freezer, and sold them at an annual auction
to raise money for education programs. This state considers that having
some of the worst recorded weather in the world is really something to
brag about. And this state could decide this election.

Don’t get
me wrong. I love New Hampshire, but I haven’t always found our quirks
entirely endearing. I wasn’t amused when, in the early 90s, friends and
family members would burst out laughing after I told them my Congressman
was a guy named "Dick" Swett.

Since buying a house, I’ve been
so fed up with my steep regressive property taxes that at times I’ve
considered jumping the Connecticut River for Vermont’s kinder, gentler
progressive income tax – and switch from the exposed and unforgiving
White Mountains to Vermont’s more gently sloped Green ones.

then again, there’s always been something freewheeling and raucous about
New Hampshire that suits me. We gave the world rogue retired US Supreme
Court Justice David Souter and renegade Olympic Gold medal skier Bode
Miller, among others.

So it seems fitting that a populace so
bent on living free wouldn’t wear an engagement ring for either party.
New Hampshire has seen an increase in senior citizens who tend to vote
Romney as well as College graduates who lean Obama. It’s both one of the
whitest and one of the least religious states in the Union, thereby
creating another toss-up. It has relatively low unemployment, relatively
high incomes, and many sought-after independents. All in all, it’s a
campaign strategist’s nightmare.

But if Al Gore hadn’t narrowly
lost New Hampshire during the 2000 election by a mere few thousand
votes, he would have won the Electoral College. So as daunting as our
demographics may be, we’re well worth the long, expensive and
frustrating courtship.

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