Down to the wire in New Hampshire

No such tea leaves will be found in the Granite State, where in 2008 just about 1% of voters cast absentee ballots. The state still requires voters to offer an excuse to vote early. Veteran observers say most here simply choose to see the campaign through until the end.

“The last weekend matters. As it always has,” says Bill Gardner, New Hampshire’s longtime secretary of state.

“New Hampshire’s a late-deciding state — at least it’s a late-committing state,” says former Gov. John Sununu, a co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s campaign. “They may be decided but they’re not going to tell you. And sometimes they’re telling you just the opposite to be perverse.”

That’s why, after weeks in which neither party nominee visited the state, both campaigns have stepped up their presence. When Obama campaigned in Manchester on Oct. 18, it was his first visit since the day after the Democratic National Convention. He was back on Saturday in Nashua, one day after Jill Biden held events at the far northern extreme and a day before Joe Biden flew in and out on a storm-shortened trip to rally volunteers at the campaign’s state headquarters…

Andy Smith, who conducts the UNH poll, said that while Obama maintains an advantage here, enthusiasm among Democrats lags behind 2008 levels, while Republicans appear to be more motivated behind Romney than they were for Sen. John McCain.

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