These are the New Hampshire Towns to Watch on Primary Night

Feb 8, 2016

Rochester, New Hampshire

If you want to know whether Hillary Clinton will stay close to Bernie Sanders Tuesday, or are looking for an early hint of how the Republican race will end up, here's a tip: Keep an eye on Rochester.

This blue-collar city, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, has picked the winners in each parties' presidential primary since 1972 -- with one exception: the 1992 Democratic race, when it chose Bill Clinton. 

But there are other places than Rochester to watch if you want an early read on the statewide results. When polling places close Tuesday night, you can cut through much of the incoming data and focus on just a handful of towns, each of whose voting history provides a different lens through which to read this year's results. 

The maps below guide you through those towns, providing a cheat sheet of sorts for Primary Night. Hover over a colored city or town on each map for details on that community's electorate and reasons why the results there matter.

Towns to Watch: Democrats (Hover over colored towns for more details)

Key Democratic towns in New Hampshire fall into three categories:

  • college towns (Durham, Hanover, Keene and Plymouth);
  • blue-collar, former mill towns (like Rochester, Claremont and Berlin);
  • left-leaning swing communities (like Concord and Dover). 

These places all played critical roles in determining the outcome of the 2008 Democratic primary between Clinton and Barack Obama. They also each represent a different segment of the Democratic electorate: young voters; middle-class voters; and educated professionals.

In 2008, Obama won the college towns, Clinton swept the mill towns, and the two candidates split the liberal swing towns. (Here's a closer look at the particular geography of that race.)

There's also Manchester, which served as the foundation of Clinton's 2008 primary victory. A strong performance by either candidate here could help overcome loses across much larger geographic areas.

Towns to Watch: Republicans (Hover over colored towns for more details)

Republican primaries in New Hampshire are won or lost in just a handful of regions: First, there's the city of Manchester, which no presidential primary winner has failed to capture in more than 40 years.

There's also the chunk of suburban towns between Manchester and the Massachusetts border, rich with Republican voters. But Manchester and its suburbs have very different voting patterns when it comes to GOP politics. The suburbs are more consistently conservative-leaning, and tend to back establishment candidates.

And, much like in the Democratic race, the state's old mill cities may also play a crucial role in this year's GOP race. They are home to many conservative and moderate Democratic voters, but also independents who may be drawn to the volatile Republican primary this year. Like we said, don't take your eye off Rochester if you're eager for an early read on the state of the race.