What To Look For In New Hampshire Tonight

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If you were devising a state where GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney could do well in a vote, it would probably look a lot like New Hampshire.

Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, which sits next door. He has a home in New Hampshire. And, from the perspective of Patchwork Nation’s geographic/demographic breakdown of counties, the Granite State offers excellent electoral terrain.

As we noted last week after the Iowa Caucuses, Romney seems to be emerging as the GOP candidate of the wealthy, largely suburban Monied Burbs. In fact, in Iowa the only county type where Romney did better in 2012 than he did in 2008 were the state’s Monied Burbs.

And the overwhelming majority of people in New Hampshire – some 61 percent – live in Monied Burb counties, in beige on the map below.

Bearing all those advantages in mind, Romney’s strong poll numbers in New Hampshire is not surprising, though recent days have shown his lead in shrinking. Even if Romney wins Tuesday night (YOU CAN FOLLOW THE RESULTS LIVE ON WNYC'S WEBSITE AS RESULTS BEGIN TO COME IN AT 7 PM) there are a few trends to look at in the vote using Patchwork Nation. 

The Choice of the Burbs

The Monied Burbs were good for Romney in the 2008 New Hampshire primary. He essentially tied Sen. John McCain in those places with 36 percent of the vote out of them. The four counties in the darkest green below, where Romney did best, are all Monied Burbs.

So one of the big questions for Tuesday night is can Romney continue to grow support in those places. Since Sen. McCain is not in this race, Romney should be able to garner more than 36 percent from those counties – possibly well over that amount. That would enable team Romney to claim two important things.

First, a solid win in New Hampshire. Second, proof that he is the best candidate to go head-to-head with President Obama in those critical swing-voting suburban areas.

The Monied Burbs were critical to President Barack Obama’s presidential win in 2008 and any Republican who wants to unseat him is going to have to do well in those places. If Romney does well in the Burbs again in New Hampshire, it would be further evidence that he is the one capable of doing that.

Winning the Small Towns?

On the other side of the coin for Romney, however, are the small town Service Worker Centers. There are three of those Service Worker counties in New Hampshire (in red on the first map above) and they were a weak point for Romney in 2008 – he got only 26 percent of the vote in those places.

 Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won the Service Worker counties in Iowa and if Romney has a hard time on those counties in New Hampshire it could suggest deeper problems he has with less-wealthy voters. That might not be a problem for Romney in the GOP primaries, but it could come back to hurt him in the Service Worker counties in a general election vote.

The Service Worker Centers tend to vote Republican, but as we have noted in other reporting they don’t have the same strong cultural conservative element as the nation’s Evangelical Epicenter counties.

You can follow the New Hampshire vote through the Patchwork Nation breakdown as it comes in live on this site, we’ll have a look at what happened once all the votes are tallied.