CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — President Barack Obama won New Hampshire for a second time Tuesday, defeating Mitt Romney in the Republican's political backyard.
Though the Democratic incumbent carried the state four years ago, New Hampshire was a battleground this time, with much competition for its meager four electoral votes. Obama campaigned heavily in the state, visiting four times since Labor Day alone, and built up a strong organization that included more than twice the number of campaign offices as Romney had.
"We've made real progress these last four years, but New Hampshire, we're here because we know we've got more work to do," Obama told a crowd of 14,000 people outside the Statehouse two days before the election.
Debra Folsom, an assistant librarian from Canterbury, said Tuesday she couldn't imagine not voting for Obama.
"I think he's doing a fabulous job," said Folsom, a 52-year-old Democrat. "There are many things that still have to be done, but we are moving in the right direction."
Romney, who squeezed in rallies of his own in Portsmouth on Saturday and Manchester on Monday, has a vacation home in Wolfeboro and is well known to New Hampshire voters from his 2008 campaign and his time as governor of neighboring Massachusetts. He kicked off his second presidential campaign in Stratham in June 2011, won New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary in January, and had hoped to continue that streak Tuesday.
For many voters, economic concerns were paramount. In exit polls for The Associated Press, six in 10 voters named the economy as the nation's top problem. They were narrowly divided between Obama and Romney, but the four in 10 who said the economy is getting better overwhelmingly backed Obama.
Bob Leighton, a computer programmer from Concord, said his family's situation is about the same as it was four years ago, but he believes the national economy is slowly improving. He didn't like Romney's positions on environmental issues, women's health care and taxes.
"You hear all the stuff about him cutting taxes for the rich, and we in the middle class are going to get stuck paying for everything like we usually do," said Leighton, 56, who isn't registered with either political party.
New Hampshire, where undeclared voters outnumber either Republicans or Democrats, had long been considered safe Republican ground until Bill Clinton won it in 1992 and again in 1996. George W. Bush narrowly prevailed in 2000, but in the next election, New Hampshire was the only state to reject Bush after voting for him four years earlier.
Obama won the state in 2008, but Republicans made huge gains in 2010, retaking the state's two congressional seats and winning commanding majorities in the state Legislature. According to exit polls, Obama had a slight advantage among the more than four in 10 who called themselves independents Tuesday, though his support among that group dropped from 2008.