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new hampshire swing state election 2012 Moderator Ken Chapman slides a voter's ballot into a box at the Woodstock Town Hall in Woodstock, New Hampshire, Tuesday, January 10, 2012, during voting in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP Images)

Election 2012: Small But Mighty

New Hampshire could hold the key to victory

By Chloe Conway | null null , null

New Hampshire may be small, but it sure is mighty in American politics. In fact, New Hampshire is the fifth smallest state, but it will play an influential role in the upcoming 2012 presidential election in November.

Even though the state only has four electoral votes, it is predicted to be one of the crucial states that will impact the outcome of the election. Historically known as a swing state, New Hampshire has never strongly favored one political party over the other in past presidential elections, so New Hampshire can be a little unpredictable to say the least.

So why is such a small state so influential? In order to grasp this concept, it is important to understand how the Electoral College works. The Electoral College was established by the Founding Fathers in 1787. It was created in an attempt to compromise between those who wanted popular election (election by individual votes) and election by Congress. Basically, the Electoral College is comprised of elected officials from each state who ultimately vote for the President. In other words, when your parents go to the polls, they are not actually voting for the President. Instead, they are voting for electors who have pledged support of that candidate. Usually, the name of these electors appears under the presidential candidate.

The number of electoral votes per state depends on the number of Senators and Representatives that state has in Congress. New Hampshire has four electoral votes because it has two Senators and two Representatives. This may seem small compared to other states such as Florida (29 electoral votes), but these four electoral votes are very important when it comes down to a close race. In order for a candidate to win the presidency, the candidate must claim 270 votes (out a total of 538 votes). New Hampshire's four votes can give a candidate an extra boost.

But because of New Hampshire's status as a swing state, it is hard to predict which candidate will win the four electoral votes. This may be due to the fact that the state is made up of primarily independents. More than 40 percent of voters in the state are registered independents. The rest of the voting population is split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans, so it is difficult to say which side independents will vote for come Election Day.

There are valid reasons to believe that both candidates have a strong chance of winning the Granite State. Mitt Romney is considered the favorite because he is from the neighboring state of Massachusetts and frequently vacations in New Hampshire. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, was very popular back in 2008, winning the state's support both in the primary and election. So overall, it is hard to determine where the voters will lean in November. Since eight of the last 10 Presidents have come away with New Hampshire, winning the state's electoral votes is a high priority.

Read more about the swing states that could determine the winner of the 2012 presidential election in the 2012 Swing States Special Report.


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About the Author

Chloe Conway is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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