Driven down by economic forces, President Barack Obama is running poorly in New Hampshire, a state he carried in 2008 and one that has been a swing state in recent presidential elections.
Obama trails Republican Mitt Romney among likely general election voters in the state by 10 percentage points in a hypothetical contest amid voter discontent with the president’s job performance and the economy, according to a Bloomberg News poll conducted Nov. 10-11. Obama carried New Hampshire by 54 percent to 45 percent in 2008.
Independent voters in the state, the site of the nation’s first presidential primary, have swung even more strongly against Obama. Romney would win independents there by 15 percentage points, the poll shows.
Obama has been a “lackluster” president with “no steady plan to create jobs,” says poll respondent Karl Swanson, 61, a marketing consultant and political independent who lives in Rye.
Obama’s standing illustrates the toll the U.S. economy has taken on him even in a state that has fared better than most. New Hampshire’s 5.4 percent unemployment rate in September compares with a 9.0 percent national rate in October. And the Bloomberg State Index of New Hampshire stocks is up 75 percent since Obama took office versus a 48 percent rise in the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index as of the market’s close in New York yesterday.
Voting With Winner
The poll, conducted for Bloomberg by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, didn’t test matchups against potential Republican nominees other than Romney. It surveyed 500 New Hampshire residents, including 324 likely general election voters.
Just 40 percent of the state’s residents and 37 percent of its political independents now say they approve of Obama’s performance in office, with 53 percent overall disapproving. By comparison, the president’s national job-approval rating was 43 percent for the week ended Nov. 13, according to a Gallup poll.
New Hampshire has voted with the winner in four of the past five presidential elections. The state backed Bill Clinton in the 1992 and 1996 elections, George W. Bush in 2000, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in 2004, and Obama in 2008.
This time, its residents are voicing pervasive gloom about the economy’s prospects. Fifty-six percent say the U.S. is still in a recession and another 9 percent say the economy is faltering and will fall back into recession, the poll shows. Only 32 percent say the economy is in a sustainable recovery.
Lagging Behind Neighbors
New Hampshire rose 1.7 percent on the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index over the 12-month period through the second quarter, ranking 17th in growth among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The index uses data on real estate, jobs, taxes and stock prices to gauge growth.
While New Hampshire has done better than the country as a whole, it hasn’t fared as well as some of its neighbors, the Bloomberg economic evaluation shows: Massachusetts is up 3.7 percent, Vermont 2.2 percent and Rhode Island 2.3 percent, meaning all are recovering even faster than New Hampshire.
The state is still experiencing the pain of the economic downturn, if not as severely as elsewhere. At the end of the second quarter, 4.87 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure or seriously delinquent versus 7.85 percent nationally. Six years ago, fewer than 1 percent of mortgages in the state were seriously delinquent.
Home prices in New Hampshire in the second quarter were 17 percent lower than at the national peak of home values during the first quarter of 2007. Home prices nationally dropped 16.6 percent during the same period.
Still, even with Romney leading Obama 50 percent to 40 percent in the poll less than a year before the voting, portions of the president’s re-election message are resonating in New Hampshire.
A 48 percent plurality is more supportive of raising taxes on millionaires to fund job-creation programs versus 40 percent that prefers Republican calls to make President George W. Bush’s tax cuts permanent and rely on the private market to boost employment.
Obama runs ahead in core constituencies of his 2008 victory such as women and young people, though he doesn’t attract majority support even from those groups.
Likely women voters in the state favor him over Romney 48 percent to 42 percent, with 10 percent uncertain how they would vote in a matchup. Likely voters under 35 years of age support Obama over Romney 50 percent to 36 percent, with 14 percent uncertain. By comparison, likely voters age 65 and older prefer Romney over Obama by an almost 2-to-1 margin.
The White House said yesterday Obama will visit New Hampshire on Nov. 22, his first trip there since Feb. 2, 2010.
Focus of Strategy
Among the eight major Republican presidential candidates, Romney exerts the strongest pull on the state’s voters. He draws more than twice as much support as Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who comes in second among likely New Hampshire primary voters, according to the Bloomberg poll.
New Hampshire allows independents as well as registered party members to vote in the Republican primary.
Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has made New Hampshire a focus of his campaign strategy. Since his 2008 presidential race, he has nurtured his network there, doing 42 political events since announcing his 2012 campaign on June 2.
Likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters also say they are most inclined to stick with the party if Romney is the nominee. Sixty-seven percent say they would “probably” or “definitely” vote for him, compared with 50 percent for Paul, 45 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 40 percent for former business executive Herman Cain, and 37 percent for Texas Governor Rick Perry.
‘A Tough Situation’
James Bartlett, 28, of Somersworth, an Air Force veteran and a computer science major at the University of New Hampshire, says Romney is the only Republican candidate he would support over Obama.
“As a businessman, he’d be better at getting the country out of debt and he’d be better at creating jobs,” says Bartlett, a political independent.
“There are things I like about Obama,” he adds. “He’s in a tough situation. I would say he did a fair job; I wouldn’t say he did a good job.”
The poll of New Hampshire residents has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, as does the survey of likely primary voters. The survey of likely general election voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.
Jim Demers, a co-chairman of Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire campaign and a volunteer adviser to his re-election effort, says voter perceptions are skewed now by constant attacks on Obama because of the state’s early Republican primary.
“Every night when the average New Hampshire person picks up the newspaper or turns on the local news they’re seeing the Republican primary and not the contrast that would take place between President Obama and the Republican nominee,” Demers says. “Once the primary is done, voters will look at it very differently.”
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