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No one cares if you grew up in New Hampshire

One of the lessons from the 2012 elections in this state is a lesson from previous elections that somehow is never learned: Voters do not care if you grew up in, were born in, or have lived a long time in New Hampshire.

When Ovide Lamontagne kicked off his campaign for governor, he ran an ad in which he declared, "I'm New Hampshire." On the campaign trail he would make the point that he knows the state and its values because he was born and raised here. Voters opted for Maggie Hassan, who was born and raised in Massachusetts.

In 2008, Republican Joe Kenney's primary message was that he was a New Hampshire native who understood the state better than John Lynch, who was... born in Massachusetts. Kenney got clobbered.

In 2005, Manchester Mayor Bob Baines, a Democrat, ran against Republican Alderman Frank Guinta in part by repeatedly pointing out that he (Baines) was born and raised in Manchester while Guinta was from New Jersey. Guinta won.

About 60 percent of New Hamshire's population was born out of state, and that has been the norm here for years. By 2008 a fully quarter of Granite Staters had emigrated here from Massachusetts, according to a UNH study. And yet candidates for office continue to hurt themselves by running on the I'm From Here platform.

Every time a political candidate talks about growing up in New Hampshire, he or she tells a majority of Granite Staters: I'm different from you. That message also tells most New Hampshire residents that the candidate views them as something less than a "real" Granite Stater. Though it is not intended this way, it comes across as condescending and nativist. It is a losing argument. No one aspiring to political office in New Hampshire should ever use it. And yet, it's a safe bet that we'll hear it again before long.


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