NASHUA, N.H. -- Voter turnout could be even higher than experts are expecting -- today is on course to be the warmest New Hampshire primary in at least 40 years.
If the historical data on Weather Underground is accurate, Manchester polling places have never been open for a primary when the weather beat today's forecast high of 57. It's already that warm in Nashua, about 20 minutes farther south -- people are walking around downtown without jackets, though huge piles of snow that fell last week are still melting slowly into the streets and sidewalks.
The state's top voting official, Secretary of State William Gardner, told the AP he expected a record 500,000 voters to turn out today, though he said the nice weather wouldn't be the reason. It can't hurt, though -- just look at the wild speculation about weather before last week's Iowa caucuses, where turnout hit record levels. The weather stayed friendly then, but it's nothing like today in New Hampshire.
A week ago, I would have said higher turnout would help Barack Obama grind out a narrow victory over Hillary Clinton, but both of those campaigns seem to expect an Obama win that isn't even all that close. On the Republican side, the weather could help expand the electorate beyond the party faithful, who tilt to Mitt Romney, and draw in independents who may back John McCain. Hard to say for sure, of course.
If you're wondering, the coldest New Hampshire primary on record appears to have come just four years ago, when John Kerry won the state and the high temperature was 21 degrees. The primary has moved from mid-March to early January since 1968, but it's still New England in the winter -- warm weather like today's might make people want to write in Al Gore.