Sen. John Kerry (search) of neighboring Massachusetts is a known quantity in New Hampshire, but it's not known whether that will help or hurt him Nov. 2.
The state's four electoral votes are high on the Democratic presidential candidate's target list because New Hampshire is one of a handful of states won by President Bush in 2000 that are still in play. Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Colorado are bigger, but New Hampshire could make the difference in the closely contested race for a majority of the 538 Electoral College (search) votes.
Polls suggest the race is even. Four years ago, Bush edged then-Vice President Al Gore (search) by about 7,000 votes for his only general election victory in the Northeast. Months earlier, Bush was upset in the state's GOP primary when Sen. John McCain (search), R-Ariz., claimed most of the state's abundant independent voters.
Kerry, serving his fourth term in the Senate, defeated Democratic rivals in this year's New Hampshire primary. Democrats hope he has an upper hand because voters know him from the primary and from watching Boston television stations, which spill into the population centers of southern New Hampshire.
Democrats and independents account for most of the nearly 20,000 new voters who registered between January and September for the Nov. 3 election.
Republicans point to Bush's regional ties — his family owns a summer home in Maine — and the fact that Republicans outnumber Democrats in New Hampshire, a state that has backed just four Democratic presidential candidates in the past century. Bush strategists also contend that southern New Hampshire is filled with people who left Massachusetts to get away from the liberal political traditions of Kerry's home state.
BY THE NUMBERS:
4 — Electoral votes.
9 — New Hampshire cast the ninth and deciding vote to ratify the U.S. Constitution on June 21, 1788.
400 — Legislators in the New Hampshire House, the largest state legislative body in the nation.
231 mph — Fastest recorded wind speed on Earth, atop Mount Washington.
9 — Mountains named after U.S. presidents.
— "My candidate is John Kerry. I don't think he's as liberal as everybody says he is. After four years of President Bush I can't vote for him again because God knows what will happen to this country. Everyone should see 'Fahrenheit 9/11.'" — Leann Dumond, Concord.
— "John Kerry's indecision, vacillation and lack of leadership is troubling to this veteran, as it should be to all Americans." — Roland Patnode Jr., past commander of the New Hampshire American Legion.
Six months before the United States declared its independence, the people of New Hampshire wrote the country's first state constitution. It was ratified June 2, 1784.
A New Hampshire peace group is one of seven American activist groups asking the United Nations to provide international observers for the presidential election.
WHAT TO WATCH ON ELECTION NIGHT:
Between January and September, more than 18,000 new voters registered, mostly Democrats and independents. Democrat John Lynch's strong challenge to Republican Gov. Craig Benson also should benefit Kerry. Unlike many battleground states, New Hampshire has seen wages increase and unemployment stay comparatively low, a trend that may work in Bush's favor.
IN NEW HAMPSHIRE FOUR YEARS AGO:
The win in New Hampshire was Bush's only one in the Northeast. He carried much of the small-town vote and dominated in the suburbs. Gore did best in college towns and smaller cities. The largest city, Manchester, went to Gore by two points.