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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Secretary of State predicts a 70 percent NH turnout for Election 2012

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31, UPDATE: RAISING AND SPENDING. In the race for governor, Maggie Hassan has narrowly out-raised and has substantially out-spent Ovide Lamontagne so far in the general election campaign.

According to campaign finance reports to be filed later today, Democrat Hassan reports raising $260,784 since her last report on Oct. 17 and $747,602 since the Sept. 11 primary.

She reports spending $329,159 since Oct. 17 and $681,944 since the primary.

She entered the final few days of the campaign with $65,658 on hand.

Republican Lamontagne raised $183,483 since Oct. 17 and $743,531 since the primary.

He spent $289,937 since his previous report on Oct. 17 and $564,156 since the primary.

Lamontagne reported having $179,375 on hand.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 25 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31 UPDATE: GARDNER PREDICTION: ABOUT 70 PERCENT TURNOUT. Secretary of State Bill Gardner told the Granite Status this afternoon he expects about 722,000 Granite Staters to go to the polls on Election Days.

He said that would be a turnout of about 70 percent of the voting age population, registered and non-registered.

&#';That's a really good turnout,&#'; Gardner said.

Gardner said that in 2008, a total of 719,393 New Hampshire residents voted. He said that according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate, there were 1,021,787 voting age residents of the state that year, both registered and non-registered.

That number was a 69.6 percent turnout, good for second in the nation behind only Minnesota, whose turnout in 2008 was 73.2 percent.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 25 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31, UPDATE: OBAMA, ROMNEY TO RETURN. With the state's four electoral votes still up for grabs, both presidential candidates will make final pitches for New Hampshire votes before the election.

President Barack Obama will return to the state for a campaign event in Concord on Sunday, Nov. 4. Further details have yet to be announced.

Mitt Romney's campaign announced he will hold a &#';Final Victory Rally&#'; with the New Hampshire &#';Republican Team&#'; at the Verizon Wireless Arena on the eve of the election, Monday, Nov. 5, at 9:30 p.m.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The event is free but tickets are required by visiting

Recording artist Kid Rock will perform at the Romney event, the campaign say.

Also, the Romney-Ryan campaign will hold a rally with U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire tomorrow at the Executive Court in Manchester, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The Obama campaign will bring Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Caroline Kennedy to New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday for a &#';Granite State Women Decide&#'; tour with stops to be announced.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 25 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31, UPDATE: &#';NO INCOME TAX&#'; AD. The &#';No Income Tax&#'; political action committee chose Halloween to go on the air with a &#';nightmarish&#'; radio ad promoting passage of a proposed constitutional amendment banning a state income tax.

PAC chairman Kevin Smith says the ad, in which a man is awakened from an income tax "bad dream,&#'; began airing today on radio stations statewide and will continue through the election next Tuesday.

At 4 p.m. today, the &#';No Income Tax&#'; PAC will host a &#';Yes on Question 1&#'; press conference at the Legislative Office Building featuring GOP candidate for governor Ovide Lamontagne and Republican U.S. Reps. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta.

Approval of two-thirds of the voters is required to amend the constitution to, as the ad says, &#';forever ban an income tax in New Hampshire.&#';

That's &#';an uphill battle,&#'; Smith says, but he points to UNH polling on the question, saying, &#';It's trending in the right direction.&#';

Back in February, Smith points out, sentiment ran 41 to 39 percent against the proposed amendment. The latest UNH poll conducted between Oct. 17 and 21, had 44 percent in favor of the question and 34 percent against.

Smith, by the way, says he will host a spaghetti supper for Lamontagne, his former GOP gubernatorial primary rival, on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Londonderry's North School.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 25 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, OCT. 29, UPDATE: CLINTON TO CAMPAIGN IN NH. President Barack Obama's campaign said Monday that former President Bill Clinton will campaign in the state later this week.

Details have yet to be announced.

The Obama campaign said Clinton will also campaign in Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The campaign said Clinton's trip in the final week of the campaign "will include both a mix of battleground states, where he will continue to lay out the choice for the American people in this election, and states with strong Democratic bases, where he will fire up supporters and urge them to help get out the vote for President Obama.&#';

Hurricane Sandy forced Vice President Joe Biden and Ann Romney to cancel visits to the state today and Mitt Romney and Michelle Obama to cancel visits to the state on Tuesday.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 25 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY, OCT. 29, UPDATE: SUPREME COURT: NO RE-HEARING. The state Supreme Court on Monday refused to reconsider its earlier refusal to block a lower court injunction on the state's new voter registration law.

Today's 3-2 decision by the high court means the new law's requirements will definitely not be in effect for next week's election.

The law would have required anyone registering to vote in the state to declare New Hampshire as his or her residence and obtain a New Hampshire driver's license.

The Superior Court in late September blocked the implementation of the law pending further hearings, saying it is likely unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court on Oct. 9, refused in a 3-2 decision to stay that order.

The Attorney General filed papers last Thursday trying to convince the Supreme Court to reconsider, saying the law should be presumed constitutional until there is a final ruling that it is not.

But the court majority refused the Attorney General's motion without comment today.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 25 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, OCT. 25, UPDATE: MICHELLE, TOO. The Obama campaign will send all four members of the first and second couples to New Hampshire over the next five days.

The latest addition is First Lady Michelle Obama, who will visit the state for a campaign event at the University of New Hampshire on Tuesday, Oct. 30, a campaign official said.

(FRIDAY UPDATE: The Obama campaign canceled Michelle Obama's planned visit to the state due to Hurricane Sandy.)

The parade began Friday when Dr. Jill Biden campaigns in Concord, Berlin, Conway and Lacionia.

President Obama will hold a rally Saturday at the Elm Street Middle School in Nashua.

Vice President Joe Biden will be in New Hampshire on Monday, followed by the First Lady on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Ann Romney will be in the state on Monday while Mitt Romney will follow on Tuesday.

During the past week, the Obama campaign has had Sen. Patrick Leahy, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, former Sen. George Mitchell, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Cecile Richards and actor Kal Penn in the state.

(The full Oct. 25 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, OCT. 25: THE STRETCH RUN BEGINS. For candidates from top to bottom, the stretch run has begun. Just 12 days until the election, New Hampshire.

What can a candidate or campaign do to convince the undecided voters at this point? There are a tiny number of undecided voters in the presidential and gubernatorial races, but if new polling is correct, there are many more in the congressional races.

As Nov. 6 nears, campaigns are in the final stages of setting up their all-important get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts.

Campaigns and political parties are imploring supporters not only for funds, but also for time, which at this point may be just as important.

&#';Our Get Out The Vote (GOTV) program is the most important way to make sure we turn out all our Democratic voters and elect Democrats up and down the ballot,&#'; state Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley wrote in an email this week. He asks for volunteers for &#';voter contact activities,&#'; or even sign-holders, for Election Day.

Similar messages are, of course, being sent on the GOP side.

Most polling shows the top races in toss-up mode.

Rasmussen Reports Wednesday showed New Hampshire remains a key, unpredictable battleground in the presidential election.

The poll had Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in a virtual tie, with Romney at 50 percent and Obama at 48 percent, with a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

Rasmussen said Granite State voters trust Romney more on the economy, by a margin of 53 to 44 percent, and they trust Romney more on national security, 50 to 46 percent.

But by 53 to 40 percent, likely voters believe Obama better understands issues facing the middle class and 52 percent believe Obama will ultimately win the election, while only 41 percent say Romney will win.

Another poll — this one commissioned by the liberal advocacy group U.S. Action — had Obama leading Romney by only 48 to 45 percent, within the 5 percent margin of error of 5 percent. Another tie.

The only poll showing a significant lead for either candidate came from the UNH Survey Center this week, which showed Obama with a 49 to 41 percent lead.

UNH polling also showed Democrat Maggie Hassan leading Republican Ovide Lamontagne, 37 to 31 percent in the governor's race, outside the margin of error of 3.5 percent.

Its congressional polls showed virtual ties, with Frank Guinta leading Carol Shea-Porter, 38 to 36 percent, and Ann Kuster leading Charlie Bass, 35 to 33 percent. Both were well within the 4.9 margin of error.

Especially surprising in the UNH polling was the percentage of undecided likely voters at this stage of the race: 29 percent in the governor's race, 22 percent in the 1st CD and 30 percent in the 2nd CD.


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BATTLEGROUND NEW HAMPSHIRE. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is pouring it on in its effort to win battleground New Hampshire's four electoral votes.

Friday, Dr. Jill Biden will be in the state for campaign events in Concord, Berlin, Conway, and Laconia.

Saturday, President Obama will arrive for the second time in 10 days for a stop at the Elm Street Middle School in Nashua. It will be his fifth campaign visit and sixth overall visit this year.

Obama's &#';warm-up act&#'; will be legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor.

What, no Boss?

And on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden will return for the seventh time this year, with details to be announced.

Why the big Obama push? Is his campaign nervous about losing New Hampshire?

Of course it is, but so are the Romney folks.

Given these polls, who wouldn't be nervous?

There are several scenarios in which New Hampshire could literally decide the election, as it did back in 2000.

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ROMNEY'S COMING. Mitt Romney will return to New Hampshire on Tuesday, Oct. 30, for a major campaign event in Manchester, the Granite Status has learned.

Veterans Park in Manchester is a potential venue for the rally, although the precise location will depend on weather conditions. There is a threat of inclement weather early next week due to a storm brewing that may become a hurricane and proceed north along the East Coast to New England.

It will be Romney's first campaign event in the state since Sept. 7. His wife, Ann, is scheduled to campaign in the state on Monday.

Battleground N.H.: Candidate visits in 2012

View Battleground N.H. - 2012 candidate visits in a larger map

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ANOTHER BIG DONATION. Wealthy New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer is again trying to make a big imprint on the shape of next year's state Legislature.

Singer has made his second huge contribution of the campaign to the pro-same sex marriage New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom and Equality PAC.

After giving the PAC $100,000 in late August, within the past week he gave another $140,000.

And just to review, it's entirely legal.

As we reported in early September, the attorney general has determined that under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, the state no longer has authority to limit contributions to New Hampshire PACs that make independent expenditures on behalf of candidates. Limits on contributions to candidate committees still apply.

Singer is a well-known contributor to Republicans nationwide. He has been a major supporter of Romney and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and cut a $1 million check to help fund the Republican National Convention.

The NHRFE PAC has used the money to fund direct-mail pieces for 55 incumbent Republican legislators who either voted against repeal of the state's same-sex marriage law or who have &#';publicly supported equal rights for gays and lesbians,&#'; said spokesman Christine Baratta. Another 12 GOP candidates being helped are running for open seats.

Included are state Sen. Nancy Stiles and Rep. John Reagan, who is running for the open state Senate seat being vacated by Jack Barnes. Everyone else is a House candidate.

The PAC helped 41 candidates with direct mail prior to the Sept. 11 primary, and 30 of them, or 73 percent, won.

NHRFE Chairman Sean Owen said the PAC is having an impact not only on those who are benefitting, from the mailing but also on those who are not.

He said he is hearing &#';more tempered&#'; statements from those who support repeal than in the past.

The mail pieces do not mention the candidates' position on same-sex marriage. They don't specifically mention the issue at all.

The closest references we could find were on the pieces for Stiles and Reagan, with phrases such as, &#';Preserving individual, parental and family freedom,&#'; and &#';Empowering families to make their own decisions without government interference.&#';

&#';The mail pieces are 100 percent positive and highlight the candidates' commitment to job creation and individual freedom,&#'; Baratta said.

So far, the PAC has spent more than $250,000 in the cycle for Republicans who support same-sex marriage.

In addition to Singer, the PAC also received a recent $25,000 contribution from Tim Gill, a Denver-based software entrepreneur and well-known LGBT activist.

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KELLY CANCELS. Ayotte Wednesday canceled a planned trip to Indiana to campaign for U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock after he made a controversial statement on abortion.

At a Tuesday debate, the Tea Party-backed Mourdock was asked whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.

He said he &#';came to realize that life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended.&#';

His comments were widely reported, sparking criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said she canceled because she &#';disagrees with Treasurer Mourdock's comments, which do not represent her views.&#';

Mourdock is the Indiana state treasurer.

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KELLY TO THE RESCUE? With Lamontagne facing what appears to be a big gender gap in his run for governor, Ayotte is trying to help shore up support for her former rival with a new radio ad.

The 60-second spot doesn't address women-specific issues, however. It talks about taxes, which affect women and men.

Ayotte defends Lamontagne as &#';a strong voice in the fight against tax increases,&#'; adding, &#';When he says he will veto a sales or income tax, you know he means it.&#';

Will she help?

That depends. Her approval ratings have been high in the state, but a recent poll by Public Policy Polling for the Progressive Change Campaign committee, a liberal group, asked New Hampshire voters whether her role as one of Romney's surrogates improved or hurt voters' image of her.

According to the poll, 42 percent said it hurts her image, while 36 percent said it improves her image, while 21 percent said it made no difference.

O'BRIEN V. BUCKLEY. Oral arguments are scheduled this morning at 9 a.m. in Hillsborough County Superior Court on NHDP Chair Buckley's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him and the party by House Speaker Bill O'Brien in September 2011.

O'Brien sought $1.2 million in damages after the party and the Attorney General's Office signed a consent agreement last year. The Attorney General said the party failed to properly identify who paid for &#';robo calls&#'; that targeted O'Brien in 2010.

The party paid a $5,000 fine under the agreement, but did not admit violating state election law.

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FAILING TO FILE. The New Hampshire Republican Party was looking into whether it has filed the required state committee finance reports for any of the last three deadlines: Oct. 17, Sept. 19 and Sept. 5 — all absent from the Secretary of State's web site.

&#';We are looking into this and any oversight,&#'; said spokesman Meg Stone. &#';All of our federal report filings are up to date, and anything outstanding will be filed as soon as possible.&#';

Asked the NHDP's Buckley, &#';How can voters believe that the Republicans will be stewards of New Hampshire's economy when the state party won't even comply with the most basic requirements?&#';

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THE AD BLITZ. Here's just a sampling of television ads currently on the air:

-- The conservative advocacy group American Action Network Wednesday released the final television ad in a more than $2 million campaign against Shea-Porter. The ad, airing on Manchester and Boston stations, targets Shea-Porter for wasting tax dollars on frivolous projects such as a mule museum in California and a shrimp study in Louisiana.

-- The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has a new ad up supporting Shea-Porter and accusing Guinta of voting to end Medicare.

-- The Republican Governors Association, in a new ad, continues to hammer Hassan for not paying property taxes on the home she lives in on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy while she wants to &#';have a discussion&#'; about raising some taxes.

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MAILBOX WATCH. Snail-mail in our neck of the woods this week included an anti-Bass piece on health care from the Jonathan Soros-backed Friends of Democracy PAC, an anti-Lamontagne piece paid for by the Service Employees International Union and an anti-Hassan piece paid for by Americans for Prosperity.

We also received a negative piece about Democratic District 9 state Senate candidate Lee Nyquist, paid for by the Liberty for All SuperPAC-NH, with a return address of Alexandria, Va.

The national Liberty for All SuperPAC was founded by college student millionaire John Ramsey of Texas to promote Libertarian and pro-Ron Paul causes. Local PAC leaders include Paul backer Jared Chicoine.

Nyquist's Republican opponent, Andy Sanborn, backed Paul in the January presidential primary.

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-- The Democratic mayor of Berlin, Paul Grenier, endorsed Republican Bass over Democrat Kuster this week, citing Bass' &#';willingness and commitment to work with members of both parties to solve the challenges facing our nation.&#'; Grenier endorsed neither candidate in 2010.

-- Bass this week was also endorsed by the state Association of Letter Carriers.

-- The New Hampshire Democratic Party will hold its annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser Friday at the Executive Court in Manchester. Not sure what's on the menu, but there should be plenty of red meat served from the podium.

-- Catholics for Romney? Yes, the Romney campaign unveiled a coalition of 216 &#';New Hampshire Catholics for Romney&#'; headed by former U.S. Attorney and Executive Councilor Tom Colantuono and former state Rep. Maureen Mooney.

-- Kal Penn of &#';Harold and Kumar&#'; fame will campaign for Obama today at New England College, Plymouth State University and Southern New Hampshire University.

-- Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund,campaigned with Hassan Wednesday, calling the gubernatorial candidate a &#';longtime champion of women's right to control their own health care.&#';

- (Thursday Update:) Hassan on Thursday was endorsed by the New Hampshire Police Association. She has also been endorsed by public safety-related unions the New Hampshire Troopers' Association, the Manchester Police Patrolman's Association, the Concord Police Patrolmen's Association, and the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire

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John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at Twitter: @jdistaso.

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