Many national pundits say that if any of the Democratic incumbents at the top of New Hampshire’s ticket lose to the GOP, it’s going to be a good night for Republicans everywhere. If not, then an anticipated GOP wave may prove to be less than tidal.
And in New Hampshire, the first measure of any swell may be taken in Nashua: the state’s second largest city is finding prominence on the state’s political charts.
Early this week, Arizona Senator John McCain wrapped up a day campaigning for GOP candidates at the American Legion hall in Nashua, Senate hopeful Scott Brown by his side.
A Navy man, McCain knew how to warm up his audience of veterans.
“Thank you. Thank you all for being here… except for the Marines,” her joked.
McCain is far from the only big name to visit Nashua lately. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have been by. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has visited twice this year. And on Sunday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will headline a Democratic get-out-the-vote rally.
Just yesterday, the candidates for the state’s Second Congressional District, Republican Marilinda Garcia and Democrat Anne Kuster, both stumped in the city. Garcia campaigned at private events. But over at the local airport, state senator Bette Lasky welcomed Kuster to the city.
Lasky: “For your, at least 25th visit here…”
Kuster: “Yes, at least, at least...”
Lansky: “We did drum into your head you have to be in Nashua and you’ve taken us seriously...”
As one local politician puts it, even if you can’t be in Nashua, you’ve gotta be in Nashua.
The city is rich with swing-voters. In 2010, Nashua’s delegation to the statehouse, previously heavy with Democrats, flipped to the Republican side. In 2012, Democrats took the delegation back.
And as Nashua sees it, politicians should wake up to some other key facts about the city: the home of big manufacturers like BAE systems is the single largest contributor to the state’s domestic product, and the city contributes the most business taxes to the state.
“Nashua is number one, ” said Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.
“Candidates have come in and paid particular attention to Nashua and its issues that are of importance to us, that may not rank as highly in importance to other parts of the state,” he said.
Issues such as federal funding to develop a commuter rail system between the city and Massachusetts, which the Nashua business community strongly backs. It was a bone of contention in races for state office two years ago, and this year it’s a factor in the Second District Congressional race.
In the Senate race, which pits incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen against Scott Brown, parochial issues are less obvious. But that doesn’t mean Nashua’s vote is any less essential. Sy Mahfouz is a downtown rug importer who’s active in Republican circles.
“I think that if you spoke to Scott Brown’s organization, they would tell you that we think that Scott Brown wins or loses by Nashua,” he said.
And, he added, in Nashua, the candidates aren’t chasing Republican or Democratic voters.
“They really believe that 99 percent of the Rs and the Ds are going to vote the way they always do, with their party,” he said. “It’s the independents that they think can be swayed. And they are really speaking to them the whole time.”
Not that each side won’t try to rally their base. They will. And if they want to get votes from unenrolled voters, well, it could be a tough sell – at least with Nashua barber Denny Park.
“I don’t like Republicans, I don’t like Democrats,” park said. “I vote for the independent. Give the underdog a chance. Pick a good name whatever it is that’s what I vote.”
Park says there is a lot of political talk in the barbershop. Judging from what he’s heard there about this election, he says… it could go either way.