It has been said by a number of national political pundits that New Hampshire (along with North Carolina) may be the two most important states to observe early in tonight’s mid-term election results.  In fact, Chuck Todd of NBC News thinks New Hampshire is the best bellwether state in the country.  I’ll be doing radio analysis tonight on WTSN-AM 1270, starting at 7 pm (listen live by clicking here), and I’ll be taking it a step further:  What are the precincts that act as arguably the best bellwethers in the best bellwether state?

To answer that, I looked for what you’ll sometimes hear referred to as “+0 precincts”.  These are precincts that vote in nearly identical fashion, in terms of their partisan tendencies, to the state as a whole.  Generally speaking, if a candidate is doing well in these communities, they are probably doing pretty well statewide.

Here are the precincts that are, depending how you round your decimals, +0 precincts:

  • Shelburne (about .4 of one percent more Democratic than the state as a whole over the past decade)
  • Hampton
  • New London
  • Manchester Ward 1
  • Manchester Ward 7
  • Nashua Ward 2
  • Rochester Ward 5
  • Laconia Ward 3
  • Rochester Ward 1
  • Nashua Ward 9
  • Grantham
  • Northfield
  • Strafford
  • Laconia Ward 4
  • Richmond
  • Carroll
  • Dunbarton
  • Hillsborough
  • Allentown (about .4 of one percent more Republican than the state as a whole over the past decade)

These 19 precincts happen to also be a pretty good mix of urban and rural, region, and size, making it as good a sample as any.  It also happens to let us look at the 2008 US Senate race between then-Senator John E. Sununu vs then-challenger Jeanne Shaheen.  Head-to-head, Shaheen defeated Sununu statewide with 53.3% to 46.7%  (I pulled out the Libertarian nominee, Ken Blevens, for the purpose of creating an apples-to-apples, binary comparison in 2014.)

In 2008, in these 19 precincts, Shaheen exceeded her statewide percentage in:

  • Northfield (57%)
  • Carroll (56.6%)
  • Rochester Ward 1 (56.6%)
  • Hillsborough (56.3%)
  • Allentown (56.1%)
  • Laconia Ward 4 (55.9%)
  • Manchester Ward 7 (55.4%)
  • Rochester Ward 5 (55.1%)
  • Grantham (53.7%)

She performed below her statewide average in these remaining +0 precincts:

  • Richmond (52.7%)
  • Nashua Ward 9 (52.7%)
  • Nashua Ward 2 (52.7%)
  • Strafford (52.4%)
  • Laconia Ward 3 (52.1%)
  • Hampton (52%)
  • Shelburne (50%)
  • Manchester Ward 1 (49.6%)
  • New London (48.5%)
  • Dunbarton (45.3%)

You will note that Shaheen slightly underperformed overall in these 19 precincts relative to her statewide performance – suggesting that 2008 Democratic turnout efforts, which were highly successful under President Obama’s campaign’s efforts – were able to juice up Democratic turnout in other areas relative to Republican turnout.

Many people expect tonight’s results against Senator Brown to be tighter than those 2008 results against Senator Sununu.  There are also broad expectations that, in this off-year election, Republican turnout may be superior to Democratic turnout across the country.  We’ll know after tonight, obviously, but I will be watching these 19 precincts closely.  Team Shaheen would obviously love to replicate its nearly seven-point victory in 2008, but given the national environment and the final polls, that appears highly unlikely.  If you want to get a sense early on whether or not Senator Shaheen is headed to a second term, look at these 19 precincts.  If she gets similar head-to-head percentages tonight as she did in 2008, it suggests she has enough gas in the tank to win by a one-to-three point final margin.

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