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banner Friday, 7 January, 2000, 17:49 GMT
New Hampshire

Tiny, rich, and famous for being first, New Hampshire has an importance totally out of proportion in presidential elections.

Key facts
Population: 1,162,481 (ranked 40 among states)
Governor: Jeanne Shaheen (D)
Electoral College votes: 4
State law says that New Hampshire's primary must be one week before any other and it is this, along with its historic knack for picking the eventual nominees, that give the state its enormous political influence.

From 1952 to 1992, no one won the presidency without first winning their party's New Hampshire primary, a run broken only by Bill Clinton who came second in 1992.

For a state that contains only 0.4% of the nation's population, it has a significance that far outweighs its size. Yet its primary importance is not its only feature of interest.

1998 Congress
House of Representatives: 2 Republicans
Senate: 2 Republicans
Historically, New Hampshire has gone its own way and this was the first colony with an independent government. Since the 19th century it has shunned high taxes and government intervention, making it a magnet for entrepreneurs and investment.

The state's dislike for government is reflected in its motto Live Free or Die. New Hampshire's low taxes have made the state one of the USA's most prosperous and its population grew by 742% from 1965 to 1997.

Voting record
1996: Clinton 49%, Dole 39%, Perot 10%
1992: Clinton 39%, Bush 38%, Perot 23%
1988: Bush 62%, Dukakis 36%
But the exceptional growth of the 1980s meant that the 1990s recession hit particularly hard, although the state has since recovered. In presidential elections it has been one of the nation's most Republican states and it has many more registered Republicans than Democrats.

But recent elections indicate that Republican dominance is beginning to slip. It voted for Bill Clinton twice and in 1996 Democrat Jeanne Shaheen was elected governor. And in 1998 Democrats took control of the state Senate. This might indicate a softening of New Hampshire's historic embrace of low taxes and small government.

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