In every big election, there are towns prognosticators look to as indicators of how a particular state, or even the entire country, might vote. These bellwether towns can provide an early sign of what the final result is going to be.
We asked University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala to tell us which Granite State towns he thinks will be bellwethers in Tuesday's presidential election between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Working-class Rochester and other northern Strafford County towns like Farmington, Strafford and Northwood were among the ones he mentioned.
He also cited Seacoast communities like Hampton, North Hampton, Rye and Stratham as potential bellwethers, because they're a bit well-off, but still liberal on social issues.
"There are a lot of wealthy, prosperous people there, but they're more liberal on social issues maybe," Scala said.
He also considers Amherst, Milford and Hollis potential bellwether towns.
"They lean a little bit Republican, but not a lot," Scala said. "If Obama's winning places like that, he's probably having a decent night."
Bow is also a good place to look at, he said.
"It's a good microcosm of New Hampshire," Scala said. "One, it's a town; two, it's fairly prosperous. You find a lot of voters there that fit the type – economically well off, socially moderate to liberal."
Hurricane could help Obama
Scala said he thinks Hurricane Sandy helped Obama, and not just because it helped him look presidential.
"I think putting Romney off the front page for most of the week helps a bit," he said. "The national media is focusing more on the natural disaster. It's kind of a two-fer in that regard."
A toss-up? Not exactly
Asked how close he thinks the presidential race is in New Hampshire right now, Scala said he doesn't think it's a dead heat, as some media outlets are saying.
"Right now, I think it'll mirror the national results, but not quite," he said. "Right now, I think we've got a situation where nationally, it's roughly about even.
"In New Hampshire, I wouldn't classify the race as a toss-up right now. The polls consistently show a small lead for the president. I think that's where we're at. When you see half a dozen polls showing you the same thing, I don't think all of them can be attributed to margin of error. I think right now the Democrats have the upper hand, but not by a lot. Not like in '08. More like '04."
Romney was in Portsmouth yesterday, and will appear with Kid Rock at a rally in Manchester on Monday night. Obama and former President Bill Clinton are scheduled to appear in Concord today.
NEC poll has Obama out in front
Speaking of polls, one conducted last week by New England College showed President Obama leading Romney 49.5 percent to 44.4 percent. In the race for independent voters, the poll gave Obama a 49 percent to 39 percent edge.
The same poll has Republican incumbent Frank Guinta leading Democrat Carol Shea-Porter 48 percent to 41 percent in the 1st District Congressional race, and Democrat Annie Kuster leading incumbent Republican Charles Bass 47 percent to 41 percent in the 2nd District Congressional race.
Meanwhile, a new University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released yesterday has Obama and Romney tied at 47 percent apiece. Obama was leading in the previous UNH poll.
The money race
In the governor's race, the Union Leader's John DiStaso reported last week that Democrat Maggie Hassan had raised $747,602 since the primary. She spent $681,944, leaving her with $65,658 on hand heading into the final days.
Republican Ovide Lamontagne, meanwhile, raised $743,531 since the primary and spent $564,156, leaving him with $179,375 on hand.
Strong turnout expected
DiStaso also asked Secretary of State William Gardner for his prediction on voter turnout on Election Day. Gardner said he thinks turnout will be around 70 percent, slightly more than it was in the 2008 presidential election.
Electrical workers take issue with Romney on FEMA
New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie will join electrical workers on a conference call tomorrow questioning Mitt Romney's position on disaster relief and federal emergency planning.
The workers are expected to focus their remarks on how state and federal agencies helped them respond to emergencies in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. They'll also hit Romney on his stated positions on disaster relief and abolishing FEMA.