The 2010 results suggest that New Hampshire Republicans do well when they're in line with the national party, Scala said. That year was all about fiscal issues and the scope of government, which plays well in a state that tends to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative, he said.
Demographic trends, particularly migration, also have helped shape New Hampshire's electorate.
New Hampshire is a mobile state, with considerable turnover of its residents. Contrary to the stereotype of deep-rooted Yankees, only about a third of the New Hampshire population over the age of 25 was born in the state, one of the lowest percentages in the nation.
Both young voters and migrants are more likely to identify themselves as Democrats, according to UNH Survey Center polls. And while overwhelmingly white New Hampshire is missing a key element of Obama's coalition — minorities — their absence is partially offset by a large proportion of highly educated, professional voters who have not been as hurt by the economy in the last four years as other groups, Scala said.
New Hampshire's unemployment rate is well below the national average, thanks in part to well-paying, high-tech jobs that have lured college-educated people to the state.
But a recent report by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies warned that the forces that have driven the state's prosperity for decades — population growth, increased productivity and a resilient economy — have largely run their course. Job growth has slowed, housing prices remain flat, and more people are moving out of the state than moving in.
That makes it likely that the political landscape will shift yet again by 2016.
An occasional look at how and why various states became presidential battlegrounds.
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