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As New Hampshire GOP Eyes 2012, Obama Faces Enthusiasm Gap

CONCORD, N.H. — Some New Hampshire Republicans privately concede that whichever candidate emerges from the cloudy field of GOP presidential hopefuls is unlikely to defeat President Barack Obama in the general election.

“Let’s face it, the chances of Obama being defeated anyway are slim,” one top New Hampshire Republican operative said. “I’m just being a realist. The guy’s going to raise $1 billion.”

Despite the pessimism, evidence on the ground suggests a second term for Obama is by no means a sure thing. The enthusiasm gap that plagued Democrats across the nation last November was on display in the Granite State last week.

Obama’s political arm, Organizing for America, hosted a State of the Union watch party at its Concord headquarters, shared with the state Democratic Party.

The event was billed as a place not only to watch the speech but to “discuss and plan ways in which they can continue supporting the president’s agenda and protect the progress the country has made the last two years.”

While there were plenty of glossy pamphlets titled “Promises Kept” showcasing Obama’s first two years in office, there was little discussion and planning inside OFA’s chilly first-floor conference room. There was also little partying, with just six people in attendance.

They included a Democratic state Representative, two visiting labor union officials, the OFA state director, a Roll Call reporter and local pharmacist Ben Nadeau, a newcomer to politics.

Nadeau, 32, did not hide his disappointment in the lack of energy.

“I don’t know how motivated the Democratic base is right now,” he said, adding that he attended the event with an eye toward becoming more involved. “I was hoping there’d be more people here.”

The small crowd was virtually silent for much of the speech, shown via the White House website and projected on the wall. They did not watch either Republican response.

There was a smattering of soft applause when Obama mentioned eliminating tax breaks for oil companies. But there were more often audible groans, most notably in response to the president’s calls for spending freezes, an enhanced military presence on college campuses and new free-trade agreements.

The campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) targeted New Hampshire in the final stretch of the 2008 presidential race as a swing state, but Obama won it by more than 10 points.

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Lynda Tran later told Roll Call that she thinks the parties “showed that OFA supporters in New Hampshire and elsewhere around the country have put the midterm elections behind them and are focused on President Obama’s vision for winning the future.”

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