Is New Hampshire Still A Swing State? Political Scientists Weigh In

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For the second straight election, President Donald Trump didn’t win New Hampshire.

Trump lost the state by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2016, in part because nearly 4,500 people wrote in Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. This time around, however, Trump received 45.6 percent of the vote to former vice president Joe Biden’s 52.8 percent.

The Granite State hasn’t gone Republican in a presidential election since 2000 when George W. Bush narrowly won it with 48.07 percent of the vote. Bush 43 didn’t win it in his successful re-election bid in 2004. John McCain didn’t win it in 2008, and Mitt Romney didn’t win it in 2012.

So even though the past five presidential elections in the state have gone to Democrats — albeit by fewer than 10 points each time — is New Hampshire still a swing state?

Political scientists in New Hampshire tell New Boston Post that it is, and they don’t see any reason why a different Republican couldn’t win the state in the right year.

That includes University of New Hampshire political scientist Dante Scala.

“NH [is] still a swing state with a slight Democratic tilt, that’s been true since 2004 (with a wobble to the right four years ago),” Scala told New Boston Post in an email message. “NH votes a point or two more Democratic than the country.  So in a close contest, we remain competitive.”

Fellow UNH political scientist Andrew Smith agreed. He noted that if you take out national elections, Republicans fared well in the state this November.

“Nh is still a swing state, Trump, as has been the case in many places, is an aberration, but even with Trump at the top of the ticket, Republicans easily won Governor, state House, and Senate,” Smith told New Boston Post by email.

As Smith notes, the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, won his race for re-election with 65.2 percent of the vote, and the New Hampshire GOP took back control of the state legislature, winning majorities in both the House of Representatives and Senate. Before this election, Democrats had a 230-157 majority in the House and a 14-10 majority in the Senate. Following the election, Republicans gained a 14-10 advantage in the Senate and a 213-187 majority in the House, according to The Dartmouth.

Republicans regaining the State House majority in 2020 also impresses Franklin Pierce political scientist Christina Cliff.

She also said that if you break down the individual circumstances of the past five presidential elections, it makes sense why Democrats won New Hampshire — although a Republican can win the state in the future.

“I would argue that New Hampshire is still a swing state, and I think you see that particularly with the down-ballot races and how they keep flipping,” Cliff told New Boston Post in an email message. “Added to that, a number of the presidential elections since 2000 have been very close, particularly 2016. 

“I think it may be more about the candidates than party – the Republicans that have lost have generally had pretty low approval rates either while in office or pre-election (Bush, Trump) or were competing against an extremely popular candidate (Obama),” she added. “But again, the races have been extremely close in most of these races, so it seems that a different candidate would have had a shot in New Hampshire.”

Trump’s showing in 2016 is the best marginal finish for a Republican presidential candidate in New Hampshire in the last 20 years, as the numbers below show —  although Trump wasn’t able to get near 50 percent either in 2016 or in 2020:


2000     George W. Bush (R)    48.07 %          Al Gore (D)    46.8 %                     R  + 1.27 %

2004    George W. Bush (R)    48.87 %          John Kerry (D)    50.24 %             R  – 1.37 %

2008    John McCain (R)    44.52 %               Barack Obama (D)    54.13 %        R  – 9.61 %

2012    Mitt Romney (R)    46.4 %                  Barack Obama (D)    51.98 %        R  – 5.58 %  

2016    Donald Trump (R)    46.46 %             Hillary Clinton (D)    46.83 %       R  – 0.37 %

2020    Donald Trump (R)    45.6 %               Joe Biden (D)    52.8 %                  R  – 7.2 %