WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is turning his political sights on New Hampshire, the small but strategically important general election battleground where his campaign hopes to shore up voter support.
Though Obama easily carried New Hampshire in 2008, the president and his surrogates have paid particular political attention to the state in recent months.
Obama is expected to promote his efforts to boost domestic energy production in a speech Thursday in Nashua, N.H. The trip marks the president's second visit to the state in about three months. Vice President Joe Biden has been a frequent visitor to New Hampshire, and first lady Michelle Obama held a conference call with campaign volunteers in the state Wednesday.
In Nashua, Obama was planning to renew his call for Congress to end some $4 billion in annual subsidies for oil and gas companies, aides reported. Obama has said these breaks are unwarranted at a time of burgeoning profits and rising domestic production.
Though New Hampshire offers only four electoral votes in the November election, Democrats have been eying the state warily following its sharp shift to the right in the 2010 midterm elections.
Further fueling concerns for Democrats are GOP front-runner Mitt Romney's personal ties to New Hampshire. Romney served as governor of neighboring Massachusetts, owns a vacation home in New Hampshire and scored an overwhelming victory in the state's Republican primary in January.
However, a poll conducted in New Hampshire in early February showed Obama beating Romney by 10 percentage points in a hypothetical matchup. Other GOP presidential candidates also trailed Obama in the WMUR Granite State poll. It gave Obama an 8-point advantage over Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is a favorite in libertarian-leaning New Hampshire, and an advantage of more than 20 points over both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire, said that with the state's economy on solid footing compared with national trends and the president boosting his presence in the state, some New Hampshire Democrats are starting to feel more confident about their prospects in November.
"There probably was concern among Democrats that maybe New Hampshire is not part of the president's re-election plan," he said. "Now things have kind of reverted back to form in a hurry."
Following his remarks in New Hampshire, Obama planned to travel to New York for four campaign fundraisers.