MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire is the smallest of the battleground states, with just four electoral votes, and for much of the fall it has seemed an afterthought to the candidates as they’ve campaigned across more prominent contested states.
That changed Thursday with the arrival of President Obama at a downtown rally on a brilliant fall day. His appearance, and the later kickoff of a 24-hour campaign swing through the state by his surrogates, underscored the state’s potential significance in the competition for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House in November.
Ohio, Virginia, Florida and some other bigger states may be seeing the candidates on a more regular basis, but over the next 19 days, the battle for New Hampshire will be waged with the same intensity as elsewhere. The Obama and Romney campaigns differ about where the race stands here, but both agree that in an election as close as this one appears to be, no electoral vote can be taken for granted.
Recent public polls have produced conflicting portraits of the state of play here. One showed Obama with a six-point lead, while others show the race statistically tied. Obama campaign advisers say they hold the lead now and are confident they can keep it. Romney campaign officials say the race is a tossup. Democrats not working directly for the president’s campaign say they see a tie. In fact, they say that every top race in the state is tight.