While people tend not to know much about New Hampshire, when it comes to presidential politics, the small state tucked into northern New England has some clout.
For the better part of the past week, all eyes have been focused on the 42nd most populous state, which holds its primary Tuesday. But who are the voters there, who play such a critical role in selecting the nation's next leader?
It's pretty easy to identify the classic stereotypes most outsiders associate with New Hampshire. Just ask long-time resident Earl Wingate:
Rick Santorum (right) was put on one end of the candidates, Jon Huntsman (far left) on the other during a Nov. 12 televised debate in South Carolina. During the debate, Huntsman complained about being "a little lonely over here in Siberia," and Santorum responded: "Tell me about it."
Credit Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images
Rick Santorum has complained about being disregarded during a string of Republican presidential debates. The former Pennsylvania senator has a point (more on that in a moment), but likely won't for long: He should be at the center of attention during a pair of televised debates this weekend that lead into the New Hampshire primary.
And Texas Congressman Ron Paul took a break from the campaign trail following his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, but today he is back in New Hampshire. He'll take part in tonight's debate with the other Republican candidates for president. Yesterday, Dr. Paul addressed an enthusiastic crowd of supporters in an airplane hangar in Nashua and took particular aim at one of his competitors, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
Iowa and New Hampshire are not demographic snapshots of America. They are smaller, less diverse and more rural than California, New York or Illinois, which have a lot more votes.
But Iowa and New Hampshire win a lot of attention early in an election year. As an old political columnist, now departed, once told me over the din of clinking cups in an Iowa diner, "If the first presidential caucuses were in Hawaii, congress would give federal subsidies to make gasoline out of pineapples."
When Mitt Romney kicked off this past week with a blitzkrieg tour of Iowa, he had no way of knowing just how true this statement would be: "You guys in Dubuque, you're the best. Get out there and vote tomorrow. I need every vote!"
He wasn't kidding. When the final numbers were tallied in Iowa, the former Massachusetts governor edged his closest rival, Rick Santorum, by the smallest margin in Iowa history — just eight votes.