POLITICS -- October 18, 2012 at 6:22 PM EDT
Listen to Me: Spotlight New Hampshire
Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan visit Manchester, N.H. in late August. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
The countdown is on. Less than three weeks remain until Election Day, something that President Obama was quick to remind voters at a campaign stop Thursday in Manchester, N.H. "Nineteen days New Hampshire," he said. " In 19 days you are going to step into a voting booth and you have got a big choice to make."
New Hampshire may be a small state, worth four electoral votes, but it's a prize both candidates are competing for. The Granite State is one of a handful of battleground states predicted to decide the election on Nov. 6, and the race there is tight. A recent Suffolk University poll shows the president and former Gov. Mitt Romney in a dead heat, at 47 percent each among likely voters.
In 2008, New Hampshire voted for President Obama over John McCain, by a margin of 10 points.
The state was blue again in 2004, voting for John Kerry, but George W. Bush won New Hampshire in the 2000 election.
So what is on New Hampshirites' minds this election cycle? Several of the state's voters interviewed as part of the PBS NewsHour's Listen To Me project said the economy and jobs were the most important issues this election cycle.
"I think that so many people are hurting because of what's happened with the 'Great Recession' and it's important to create jobs to get people back to work," said voter Dan Hansberry.
"The most important issue I would say is the economy," said Pushpavalli Gopalakrishnan. Education is an important tool, she added, to help "build our economy in the future."
New Hampshire is faring better than many other states when it comes to jobs. The state's current 5.7 percent unemployment rate is below the national average.
And over the past three years, New Hampshire has seen a slight decrease in its unemployment rate. As seen on the NewsHour Map Center, between Jan. 2009 and Jan. 2012, the unemployment rate went down by one tenth of a point. However, that decrease wasn't felt across the state. The North Country saw an increase in unemployment over that same time frame.
Almost everyone interviewed said they are hopeful for the future.
"I'm definitely hopeful. This is America, and I believe in America and what it stands for." said Valerie Morelli.
Joe Raczek agreed, but thinks Americans' outlook needs to change. "Of course I am hopeful," he said. "The issues that we face are not going to be taken care of in six months or a year. That's one of the problems, that we always look for a quick fix. So, we need some bigger change that will affect things longer."
New Hampshire Public Television contributed to this post.