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Going North

McCain's headed to Manchester, NH, tomorrow. Palin was in Bangor Maine on Thursday.

But the AP has a good look at McCain's challenges in the Granite State: 

State trends are working against McCain, however. New Hampshire was the only state to vote for John Kerry in 2004 after voting for Bush in 2000, and Democrats swept both its congressional seats, the governor's office and both houses of the state Legislature in 2006. Those results were fueled in large part by anti-Bush and anti-war sentiment, but [political consultant Dean] Spiliotes argues the shift is certainly more than a blip, if not a permanent trend.

In the last two years, Democrats have increased their voter rolls by 20 percent, compared to a 6 percent gain by Republicans. The GOP has seen its advantage over Democrats shrink to just under 6,000 votes.

Undeclared voters, who were key to McCain's primary wins, have decreased but still outnumber those registered with either party. Spiliotes believes most of them lean Democratic given that New Hampshire's growing industries, such as technology startups, medical centers and precision manufacturing, attract people from metropolitan areas.

"You look at the large group of independents, and I wouldn't make the case any more that they're split down the middle," he said.

Also, a weird sideshow in Manchester: McCain has enlisted a 17-year-old who was scheduled to sing the national anthem at a recent Obama rally--but was then bumped--to sing at his own rally. Says the teen: "A friend of mine from school said to me today, 'Oh my God, you are going to become the next Joe the plumber!"

Update: Stephanopoulos hears that McCain may be scaling back his ad buys in NH, effectively conceding the state . But then why bother stumping there this week?

--Michael Crowley