The Trump campaign has maintained its sights on winning New Hampshire in November after losing the state to Hillary Clinton by just 2,736 votes. The prospects for victory over Joe Biden, however, might be clouded by effects from the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the outbreak reaching U.S. soil, New Hampshire GOP Gov. Chris Sununu had told Boston public radio station WBUR that Trump would win the state due to encouraging signs about the economy.
“President Trump is going to win New Hampshire. When folks go to fill out their ballot in a ballot box, they look at what’s going to impact themselves and their neighbors and in their communities,” Sununu said in February. “And economic prosperity brings a better quality of life, better access to health care, more opportunity for opioids and mental health and all these things that really impact our day to day lives.”
In a matter of months, the economic outlook in New Hampshire has dramatically shifted. A state employment official said last week that New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is as high as 20%. New Hampshire, which counts tourism as one of its top industries, saw unemployment at 2.4% in April 2019, the third-lowest figure in the nation.
New Hampshire carries just four electoral votes but the state can be a difference-maker. In 2000, George W. Bush won the state by just over 7,000 votes, which gave him the electoral-college victory over Al Gore, 271-267. Since 2000, the Democratic nominee has won New Hampshire in every presidential election.
The Trump camp might need New Hampshire to lift Trump to a reelection victory should he lose other states that were closely decided in 2016, like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Polls show that Biden is leading in may key swing states.
“We’re going to work as if we are the tiebreaker,” Chris Ager, a Republican National Committee representative for New Hampshire, told news outlet McClatchy.
The economic downturn may already mean waning support for Trump. A recent poll from St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, showed Biden leading Trump, 50% to 42%.
Sununu’s comments came in February, when a poll from the University of New Hampshire showed Trump with an edge on Biden, 46% to 44%.
As with most states, Trump’s handling of the pandemic could be a key factor in winning battleground states like New Hampshire. As of Saturday at 3:00 p.m. ET, New Hampshire had 4,014 coronavirus cases and 204 deaths.
In late April, Fox News noted a New Hampshire poll showing 58% disapproved of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
“This tracks very closely with his overall favorability (42%/58%) and job approval (43%/57%), suggesting that his leadership style continues to be highly polarizing,” New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque told Fox News.