This race is real bellwether for a number of reasons: the district itself demographically perfectly balanced between liberal and conservative voters, both candidates have held the seat before meaning they are more-or-less on equal footing in terms of name recognition, and both are party stalwarts have voted with their partys’ leadership high in 90th the percentile.
Both candidates were swept into office in wave elections – Shea-Porter propelled by anti-Bush sentiment and Guinta riding the Tea-Party wave – which can make it hard to assess how durable the dynamics that got them elected are. But taking a look back at the past victories for both candidates can give an idea of what to look for tonight.
2008: Shea-Porter Beats Jeb Bradley
Just a quick note on reading these maps: the lower the number the more Republican the town voted, and the higher the number the more Democratic.
In 2008, Shea-Porter won by a comfortable 6-point, 20,000 vote margin. Not a landslide by any means. That victory was driven by strong performances in the big population centers of the district – she won, Rochester, Dover, Somersworth, and Manchester – especially in liberal Portsmouth where she took 4,700 votes out of Bradley. She even eked out a victory in Laconia.
Those votes helped to outweigh her relatively poor showing in rural areas: especially in the Lakes Region and the towns surrounding Manchester. In the rural towns she did win, such as Farmington, Barnstead and Strafford, the victories were not particularly decisive, but in many such towns she lost – Hampstead, Alton, or Auburn – the margins were pretty large.
That’s a good segue into 2010.
2010: Guinta Unseats Shea-Porter
In 2010 Guinta’s victory was pretty convincing. His margin was over 26,000 votes in a non-presidential year, which put him 12 points up on Shea-Porter.
While the demographics driving the race were the same the dynamics were very much different. The Tea-Party movement was in full swing, triggering a Republican wave at the polls. Shea-Porter’s support in urban centers melted away, and the cities more apt to swing, did. Rochester, Laconia, and Manchester went to Guinta, and Portsmouth, Somerworth and Dover gave her many fewer votes.
In rural areas, Guinta cleaned up. He won 85 percent of towns with fewer than 5,000 voters and many by wide margins.
This Time Around
So the lay of the land for the past two elections was clear. The question today will be are the same underlying demographic forces still driving the election in CD1, or will a new coalition of voters form to keep Guinta in his seat, or boot him out. If they dynamic stays the same he needs to limit losses in the cities, and carry as many towns as he can, and Shea-Porter needs to do just the opposite. This is what you can look for as results begin to roll in.