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Mitt Romney holds a home-field advantage in New Hampshire

January 10, 2012|By Paul West
  • A supporter of Mitt Romney stands between campaign signs outside the Webster School polling station in Manchester, N.H.
A supporter of Mitt Romney stands between campaign signs outside the Webster… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

Reporting from Manchester, N.H. — There are few home games in presidential politics, but that’s what today’s New Hampshire primary amounts to for Mitt Romney.

Romney owns an estate on the shores of New Hampshire’s largest lake, and for the past 15 years, he’s considered this state a second home.

He also enjoys another type of home-field advantage here, a potent one that has greatly benefited other presidential candidates over the years: his political roots in neighboring Massachusetts. Romney was governor from 2003 to 2007 and considers his house in the Boston suburbs his residence for voting purposes.

PHOTOS: New Hampshire voters head to the polls

Massachusetts pols almost always win presidential primaries in New Hampshire. That has much more to do with practicality than regional pride. Many New Hampshire residents work in Massachusetts. Many more get their news from Massachusetts TV and radio stations and newspapers. That means a presidential candidate from next door is often more familiar to New Hampshire voters than contenders from other states.

The list of candidates from Massachusetts who have capitalized in New Hampshire on the advantages of proximity is long, and it’s bipartisan.

In 1964, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., a former senator from Massachusetts, won the Republican primary as a write-in candidate. Without even campaigning (he was U.S. ambassador in South Vietnam at the time), he defeated Barry Goldwater, who would become the GOP nominee, by 13 percentage points.

Another former senator from the Bay State, Paul Tsongas, won the 1992 Democratic primary by almost 10 points. Bill Clinton, the runner-up and eventual nominee, claimed that if only the votes from parts of New Hampshire that weren’t near the Massachusetts border had been counted, Tsongas would have lost.

In 1988, New Hampshire served as the launching pad for Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, who won the Democratic primary by 16 percentage points and went on to lead his party’s ticket.

In 2004, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts won the Democratic primary by a dozen points and, later, won the nomination.

In 1960, the year he was elected president, Democratic Sen. John F. Kennedy won the New Hampshire primary with an eye-popping 85 percent of the vote.

The most famous Democratic exception to the home-field advantage was Kennedy’s younger brother, Ted. In 1980, the senator from Massachusetts challenged an incumbent president, Jimmy Carter, in the New Hampshire primary and fell short by 10 percentage points.

Among Republicans, the only contender from Massachusetts to lose here was -- Mitt Romney. He was upset in the 2008 primary by John McCain. Polls suggest that he’s unlikely to become the first Massachusetts politician of either party to lose the New Hampshire primary twice.   

paul.west@latimes.com

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