Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Campaigns move to politically diverse and more rural N.H., where parties differ on state of U.S.

After the Iowa caucuses, the presidential race has shifted to Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, one of the nation's most rural, least populated and most politically diverse states, Kit Seelye reports for The New York Times. New Hampshire's population in the 2010 census was 40 percent rural (Iowa was 35 percent and the national figure was 16 percent) also has the third oldest population, with a median age of 41.8. Between 2000 and 2010, more than 10 percent of Granite State residents 20-29 left the state.

New Hampshire Democrats and Republicans agree on very little, Seelye writes. "Polls show that 66 percent of New Hampshire Democrats believe the country is on the right track, but only 5 percent of Republicans agree. Much of the Republican dissatisfaction stems from disapproval of President Obama, his overhaul of the health care system and his support for gun control."

"Andrew E. Smith, a political scientist and pollster at the University of New Hampshire, said that voters’ mixed feelings reflected in part their generally positive views of their own lives and their more negative views of the country as a whole; 61 percent of New Hampshire voters say the state is headed in the right direction, but only 35 percent say the same about the country," Seelye reports.

The two parties also disagree on the most important issues facing the state, Seelye writes. "Since the terrorist attacks last fall in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., Republicans have rated national security at the top, with 34 percent citing it as their priority; next are the economy at 26 percent and immigration at 11 percent. Among Democrats, 26 percent rate the economy as the top issue, while 13 percent say national security is. Some of the angst over the economy stems from a recognition that the state’s boom times are over."

"Even as major corporations like FedEx, UPS and Pratt & Whitney expand here, job growth over all has slowed and in some regions has yet to return to pre-recession levels," Seelye writes. "The cost of living can be relatively high, especially in the suburbs near the Massachusetts border. New Hampshire’s minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour, the lowest in New England; attempts to raise it have gone nowhere."

Another problem is a rising heroin epidemic, Seelye writes. New Hampshire "had an estimated 399 opioid overdose deaths in 2015, a 22 percent increase over the year before. In a survey last fall, 25 percent of voters said the heroin epidemic was the most important issue confronting the state, ahead of the economy."

While Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won in Iowa, all the New Hampshire primary presidential polls have businessman Donald Trump leading by at least 15 percent, according to RealClearPolitics. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who narrowly lost in Iowa to Democrat Hillary Clinton, leads all the polls by anywhere from 6 to 29 percent.

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