MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Obama will visit a changed New Hampshire today.

The independent-minded presidential swing state he won in 2008 has shifted to the right since his last visit nearly two years ago. The local economy is struggling to grow and voters are increasingly unhappy with the president’s leadership.

“He’s not getting my vote – no way,” construction worker Norman Berube, 49, a registered independent, said while waiting for a booth at the Airport Diner recently. “This country is worse off.”

Others say the same.

Recent polls show that, if the election were held today, Obama would lose by roughly 10 percentage points to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the leading contender for the GOP nomination. That’s quite a slide for an incumbent who beat Republican Sen. John McCain here by nearly the same margin just three years ago.

Still, a year before Obama’s re-election, Democrats aren’t panicking.


In fact, Obama’s campaign is quietly confident that he can re-ignite voters’ passion the more they see him, which explains why Obama is venturing to Central High School to promote elements of his jobs plan that’s stalled in a divided Congress.

His visit comes just as a deficit-reduction supercommittee in Washington is on the brink of failing to reach a deal on how to save taxpayers $1.2 trillion over the coming decade. A divide over how much to raise taxes — a salient issue in low-tax New Hampshire — was proving too high a hurdle to overcome.

With finger-pointing beginning in Washington, Obama was heading to New Hampshire, as Republican candidates wielding anti-Obama messages swarm the state ahead of the Jan. 10 primary.

“There have been a lot of Republicans up here,” said Kathy Sullivan, a New Hampshire-based member of the Democratic National Committee. “It’s a good time for the people of New Hampshire to hear from the president.”

On Monday alone, four of the eight GOP contenders – Romney, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – campaigned in New Hampshire.

Unemployment in the state was at 5.4 percent in September, well below the national average of 9 percent.


While Obama’s job approval numbers here are weak, more alarming is polling suggesting that independents – a key voting bloc in the presidential race – have swung away from Obama after lifting him to victory in the state and across the country.

Independent voters helped Republicans sweep the state’s congressional elections and win veto-proof majorities in the state legislature. It was a dramatic shift for a state many believed had been shifting to the left over the last decade.

In a likely nod to independents, Obama is expected today to prod Congress to extend a temporary cut in payroll taxes that has enjoyed bipartisan support.

Obama supports an extension and on Monday previewed his likely pitch in New Hampshire: “If Congress doesn’t act by the end of the year, then the typical family’s taxes is going to go up by roughly $1,000. That’s the last thing our middle class and our economy needs right now.”


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