Religion was huge in Iowa, but New Hampshire doesn't want to talk faith
Will religious conservative Rick Santorum connect in New Hampshire?
January 5th, 2012
09:27 AM ET

Religion was huge in Iowa, but New Hampshire doesn't want to talk faith

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - When Kevin Smith took over a New Hampshire Christian advocacy group called Cornerstone Action in 2009, the outfit was so strapped for cash and members that it was in danger of closing down.

So Smith took the group, which is associated with the national evangelical organization Focus on the Family, in a different direction. Instead of just focusing on “family values” causes like opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, as it had been, he began waging campaigns around fiscal matters like reducing taxes and trimming the budget.

The result: The group’s financial support grew tenfold in three years, to $1.2 million, and helped usher Republican supermajorities into the New Hampshire legislature in 2010.

“If we were going to survive we had to have a broader appeal, because of the kind of conservatives that are here,” says Smith, a former aide in the governor’s office who’s now running for governor himself. “Not all of them were with us on social issues.”

Five days before New Hampshire’s Republican primary, Smith’s experience points to a major shifting of gears in the presidential race: While religion played a huge role in the Iowa caucuses - helping fuel Rick Santorum’s last-minute surge there and throwing up hurdles for Mitt Romney, a Mormon - religious faith is not likely to matter much in the Granite State, one of the least religious states in the nation.

That means the candidates will be rejiggering their Iowa-branded messages about faith and family into ones about fiscal matters, like the national debt and the cost of President Barack Obama’s health care plan, before once again dusting off the faith and family rhetoric for the next-in-line South Carolina primary, where evangelicals dominate.

“It’s a big shift of culture from Iowa to New Hampshire, except for the fact that nearly everyone in both states is white,” says Mark Silk, professor of religion in public life at Trinity College in Connecticut. “For Mitt Romney’s campaign it’s ideal, because they don’t want to talk about religion and neither do voters.”

It may also be good news for Ron Paul, a libertarian-leaning candidate who has mostly steered clear of social issues and who finished third in Iowa.

But Santorum may find it hard to translate his socially conservative message to New Hampshire, much as Mike Huckabee did in 2008 after winning the Iowa caucuses. And Newt Gingrich, who worked hard to cultivate Iowa evangelicals, is likely to stress his economic and foreign policy views in New Hampshire.

Rick Perry, meanwhile - the most overtly evangelical candidate left in the presidential race - has signaled he will mostly ignore New Hampshire, tweeting Wednesday: “And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State...Here we come South Carolina!!!”

Evangelical Christians, the Republican voters who care most about hot buttons like abortion, accounted for nearly 60% of caucus-goers in Iowa on Tuesday, helping to carry Santorum to a strong second-place finish.  But they are expected to make up less than a quarter of the vote in New Hampshire next week.

“Even among the evangelical churches that are in the state, they’re not really interested in wanting to be involved in political matters,” says Smith, a Catholic who attends an evangelical-style nondenominational church. “And politicians here would prefer that the churches not to get involved.”

The limited political role of religion helps explain why a slim majority of Republicans who voted in New Hampshire’s last presidential primaries, in 2008, said that abortion should be legal, according to exit polls.

A 2009 Gallup survey found that New Hampshire was the second-least religious state in the country, one of a small handful in which less than 50% of residents said religion is an important part of their daily lives.

“New England and particularly northern New England has a lot of people called ‘nones,’” says Trinity College’s Silk, referring to people who claim no religious affiliation. They account for the fastest growing segment of the American religious landscape.

“Boston was the epicenter of the priest abuse scandal,” Silk says, “and a lot of marginal Catholics have drifted away.”

Catholicism and mainline Protestantism are still the dominate religious modes in New England. But even New Hampshirites who are religious tend to be reluctant to inject their faith into political debates.

“I’m from New Hampshire, and people here are generally people of faith, but they are a lot more private about their religious views,” says Jamie Burnett, a Republican consultant who is unaffiliated with any presidential candidate.

Burnett was New Hampshire political director for the Romney campaign in 2008 and says Romney was asked about his Mormonism just once in his many trips there.

“It’s the kind of thing that comes up a lot in Iowa, not New Hampshire,” says Burnett.

Silk says New Englanders’ public reticence about religion is a result of entrenched Yankee Protestants and more newly arrived Irish Catholics working past religion-based political tensions in the mid-20th century.

“There was a kind of tacit agreement that religion is not going to be part of electoral politics, in light of a history of Yankee and Catholic political fights,” says Silk. “It helps explain why Michael Dukakis and Howard Dean and John Kerry didn’t do a good job talking about religion on the stump.”

And why, in New Hampshire this week, the Republican candidates won’t have to do that kind of stump work.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: New Hampshire • Politics

soundoff (255 Responses)
  1. Steve

    What is Santorum's message going to be there? He promises to end gay marriage and get boo'd off every stage? There's a lot of fiscal conservatives there and Santorum is on record for countless yes votes to all the big spend bills. He has no fiscal conservative credentials whatsoever. And with his viewpoint to use government to usher in a new era "moral family valued people" he is just a different flavor of a democrat. Just change liberal/political correctness with biblical correctness.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  2. Bullet

    Would you really, deep in your heart, vote for someone who would keep a fetus with him all night and then take it home for his children to see? The Media would crucify any Democrat that pulled that stunt off and would never let up for a minute. Where are they now? This man should be behind bars, or at least in a Sanitarium.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  3. Peter

    lol...the candidates are looking to rule Sodom and Gomorrah...kind of like Abraham's nephew Lot....it's a low position!!! there is no Glory there, trying to push Christianity to this backslidden country is a joke, God has a free gift for this country, a free radioactive bath....at a cozy 14.000.000 degrees.....courtesy of our Russian neighbors to the north...

    January 6, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  4. Bullet

    Let me see if I have this right. First, the repukelicans go to Ioway and tell all the hawkeyes that they love Jesus more than anything because they want the bible thumper's votes. Next, they go to New Hampshire and tell the Rocketeers that they can wave a magic wand and turn the economy that George W. Bush screwed up back into something resembling the way it was under Bill Clinton. Then they have to go to South Carolina [where all the northern factories took big tax breaks and no Union labor and relocated there for a few years before pulling up stakes and going to Communist China] where the numbers of bible thumpers and the unemployed are about the same , and convince them that they are jesus lovers, economy fixers, conservatives, and fighters of wars, all rolled into one. GOOD LUCK!

    January 6, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  5. Mezmama

    The attendant opinion question is very badly worded. "How much does religion factor into your vote?" I, as an avowed anti-Fundamentalist would NEVER vote for one, because I believe religion should NOT be part of our political system, which Fundamentalists insist upon it being. Therefore, my answer was "A lot", which would, in reality, be very misleading. The question should be worded as such: 'How much does religion positively factor into your vote?"or "Does a politician's religious beliefs positively influence your vote?". My answer then would be "Not at all".
    Just want to clarify a very ambiguous and poorly worded "survey" question.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Kevin

      I met with the same confusion at the survey question. It is indeed very poorly worded. You know, I would like to think that it was worded that way intentionally, even though that would implicate CNN's editors as being somewhat nefarious. But my impression is that they're just idiots and couldn't properly word a survey question if their lives depended on it.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  6. Larry L

    I'm hoping the folks in New ask three questions. What is your specific plan fo

    I hope the folks in New Hampshire ask three questions of all of the candidates – what are your SPECIFIC plans for Social Security, for Healthcare, and for job creation in the United States? Don't let the weasels off the hook with political generalizations and fluffy ideology. Make them answer the damn questions!

    January 6, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  7. Patricksday

    Separation of Church and State is what is must be, these people don't believe in God anyway, how could they and do the things they do to the least of us. They certainly dont follow Jesus Christ, and that's okay, just stop pretending and LYING that you do.

    January 5, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • Town Crier


      January 6, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  8. str8vision

    It's not people's "faith" in God or Jesus as depicted in the bible that will have political impact. It's people's "blind faith" in organized religion (The Church) which no longer follows the bibles teachings that will. Hate, selfishness, greed, intolerance, bigotry and violence are not what Jesus taught, but what organized religion in America has aligned itself with.

    January 5, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  9. m

    There are less than 1.5 million people in New Hampshire. Who really cares what they think!

    January 5, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  10. tony

    If a religious politician could create "Hell on Earth", we'd solve the energy problem instantly.

    January 5, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  11. Tyler

    A man called Bubba plans place his bid as GOP presidential candidate. When asked why. He says "I am the anti christ". Every one in the room applauded.

    January 5, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  12. Big Al

    The people of N Hampshire are much more grounded, more self assured and statistically less stupid than Iowans. America is the only developed nation where a candidate must wear his religion on his sleeve. It's really embarassing.

    January 5, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  13. Spiffy

    All you Atheists will burn in hell unless you repent to the Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ. You see he sacrificed himself, for us, to himself, in order to protect us from himself. How can you not love the this guy?

    January 5, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Big Al

      You have issues.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Spiffy

      You are the one who is going to have issues when Satan is burning your behind.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • fsmgroupie

      who keeps the fires of hell burning for zillions of years ?

      January 5, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Andrew

      Personally, I'd take everlasting physical pain over everlasting mental guilt, anguish, and torture any day of the week. If heaven is populated by people like you, or a god who requires sycophantic worship from lemmings while dooming anyone who doesn't offer him that praise to eternal torture, how the hell could I EVER be anything but in guilt ridden anguish while people are suffering and I'm surrounded by people like you. Heaven sounds far more hellish than any threat of eternal fire and pain. God always sounded like a major pri k to me, an egomaniac. Seriously, he sounds downright evil, and I think is probably responsible for more deaths in the bible than Satan.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Obviously Satan is very good at gathering firewood. How else would he keep the fires going? DUH!

      Well I am very religious as you can tell by reading my posts. If you can't be happy then God will probably just force the happiness upon you by erasing your memory of the very fact that there is a hell. Ignorance is bliss after all. Religion of course is logic.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Fuyuko

      How can a good god ever condone the existance of hell, or any place where his creations are tortured for eternity? Sorry, don't believe in hell. It is just another Christian myth to get folks to convert/repent. I would never believe in a deity who would condone hell, or want his own kid to be sacrificed for our sins. Both are acts of evil that any good being would never tolerate.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Town Crier

      Glad to see some on here are able to think it through!

      January 6, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  14. Jay

    Yeah, good luck trying to use religion in New Hampshire. I live in New Hampshire and the only thing people care about is tax cuts and gun laws; lots and lots of gun laws that make it perfectly okay to 1. allow a person to have a gun without a permit
    2. allow a person to have a gun in the State House
    3. allow a person to carry a loaded gun in their car
    4. allow a person to shoot anyone for any reason as long as they feel "threatened"
    We take "Live Free or Die" way too seriously.

    January 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • popeye47

      Of course, there are no Christians in New Hampshire. The Baptist all live in the south.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  15. Mike

    Show me God and I will acknowledge he exits...meanwhile I will stick to my $

    January 5, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Google Jesus/God. Click on the images part. See you found God!

      January 5, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  16. Try2keepup

    it's a faith thing. You would't understand. Now flame away desperately trying to hide the fact that you actually fear God but lack the moral strength to follow His standards. Maybe you do understand!

    January 5, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Yeah! Atheists are so stupid. They want facts, and stuff, when in reality it is all faith based! Now lets see how the dictionary defines faith: belief that is not based on proof. Who needs proof when you have a 2000 year old book to tell you what to do?

      January 5, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • tony

      I fear bad people. Only they can physically touch me. As to anyone not having morals, unless they are religious.You have that backwards. It's the religious who act well, in order to qualify for the reward of an afterlife.

      January 5, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Andrew

      I don't fear things I don't believe in. I did when I was 7, like when I got petrified from the alien in Men in Black that took over human bodies, but since growing past my childhood, fiction just can't inspire the same fear in me it did when I was a gullible little child.

      It's then not that I fear your god, it's that I fear people like Rick Santorum who use their fiction to try to influence other people. It's as though there's really a group of people who worship Voldemort, and say "we must all be pure-bloods!", try to get those standards inst-tuted as law, all of the while ignoring the fact that Voldemort does not exist.

      Would I fear Voldemort? Hardly, I fear the people crazy enough to believe that he exists, and worse still, that it is their duty to impose their own standards on everyone else. It is the arrogant certainty of believers that scares me, the "I'm right and everyone must abide by my rules... like no p0 rn, no gay marriage, compulsory prayer in school, ID in classrooms," etc etc based on fiction.

      Your god doesn't scare me, your believers do.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Praise God

      There are no true atheists. These message boards are simply infested with cowards and trolls, pridefully pretending to not fear in God. They're really hear more to test the Christian's faith, and so my message is to the Christians. Fear them not. Christians are 85% of the US for a good reason. Don't buy into their whining about the "unfairness" or "injustice" of religion "oppressing" them. It's all a ploy. All a ploy. Just to see if you'll back down, give in. Just to test you. Can you actually believe how TV has rammed down our throats that we should defend "gay marriage?" Marriage is from God. It is a holy sacrament for man and wife. Two gays can never have a "marriage" and the only reason they want to call their unholy union a marriage is precisely because marriage is holy and they want to hide behind it. Just like the p0rn industry hides behind the first amendment. Just like murderers of the unborn hide behind "choice" and trying to ignore all of science and medicine that firmly declares a new life begins at conception. Look at what people fight for – immorality. They preach and argue their personal man-made creed of immorality. Don't oppress us with your morals, they shout and argue. Except it's them, the vocal minority, who oppress those who try to live by God's rules (not their own but God's) with their man-made, personal invented immorality. They fight for p0rn. They fight for abortion. They fight for gay marriage. They fight for a world where all our kids wake up and are told these things are right because they are legal. But what about God? They have succeeded in reaching the point that no public school teacher can even mention God lest they be fired. They succeed in stopping religious nativity scenes at Christmas. They mock the bible, ridicule the faith of the millions of Christians. This is the world they create as they cry how they are "oppressed by religion."

      And you know something, our nation (under God) was founded on that all our rights are inalienable for one reason and one alone – that they are endowed to us by our Creator. By simple logic, those who reject their creator reject any rights that come from that creator. No creator, no rights given. Right? Well then every atheist has no rights according to their beliefs. Maybe that's why they're so bitter and try to get the rest of the country to give up their rights too, their moral values.

      Don't give in to them. Though these comment sections may make them seem like the majority, it's only because so many Christians have lives and better things to do and many of them it's so much of their life to be jealous and scared and come here to test Christians. Don't give into them because God's grace is so much greater. Don't give in to them because they are cowards who will stand before God one day, as well all will, and given an accounting. Don't give in to them because we are blessed by the gift of our faith. All they are doing is testing people. Rise up to the challenge. Bless them and pray for them for they know not what they do. Love them as their Creator who they blindly flail against loves them too. God bless you thank you for reading.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • Q

      "By simple logic, those who reject their creator reject any rights that come from that creator. No creator, no rights given. Right?"

      Well, the rights are "unalienable" and so can't be rejected, i.e. they cannot be given or taken away. Furthermore, Jefferson's version of the "Creator" was so ambiguous (e.g. "Laws of Nature", "Nature's God") as to be indistinguishable from some purely natural source (but clearly given the glaring absences in the DoI and Const-tution, Jefferson and Madison both consciously excluded reference to the biblical deity). Lastly, these unalienable rights are "self-evident", not "revealed", indicating another distinction from those rights which sentient beings might declare for themselves v. those rights granted by some supernatural fiat.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Town Crier

      Praise... what you write here is borderline nonsensical. You give claim to the partiality of the "other gods" while citing from your good book, "the bible", that you know the mind, will, and intent of this god. At the end of the day all you have is an old book that has been re-translated, mistranslated and misinterepreted for quite some time.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  17. KPD

    I am very religious, HOWEVER, I'm not a mindless drone for my religion and can think outside of what it tells me. So I don't have to vote based on that, unlike the majority of mindless Americans who stupidly vote based on what a preacher or pastor or God tells them.

    January 5, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Spiffy

      Yeah! If your religious ignore what you believe to be the creator of the universe, and an infallible being!

      January 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • senginz

      kept religion out of politics and the bedroom , unless a republican or democrat is dealing with a scandal, then well it is okay then, but the rest of us are doomed for hell, but Jesus forgives politicians, especially those he choose to run for president!

      January 6, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  18. chedar

    According to the Chinese Zodiac, the best chance for a candidate to beat OBAMA in 2012 are :

    1. Jon Huntsman – Year of the Rat.
    2. Mitt Romney – Year of the Boar
    3. Rick Santorum – Year of the Dog

    The least likely to beat Obama is Santorum

    Obama's birthday is in the Year of the Ox. Either of the two Mormon candidate can beat Obama. But Jon Huntsman is most likely to win the presidency as the Rat has the best chance under the year of the water Dragon (2012).

    January 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Spiffy

      How could we have not seen it before? Of course the Chinese Zodiac predicts the best results!

      January 5, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Andrew

      The math checks out.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  19. joey

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and the rulers as useful; Seneca (4BC-65AD)

    January 5, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • TownC

      You seem to put a lot of faith in the truth of that quote.

      January 5, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • senginz

      about the most truthful quote I have heard all day, thank you much Joey!

      January 5, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Praise God

      um, Seneca was referring to the Roman pantheon which included a chariot pulling the sun – of course the wise saw it as false. You forgot to mention though that Plato and Aristotle deduced the universe was created by an intelligent designer purely from reason and observation and Aristotle believed humans had a soul.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Maya

      How exactly is modern religious belief less ridiculous than the Roman pantheon?

      Aristotle also believed that Earth was the center of the universe and that women were inferior creatures who should be kept inside the house. Aristotle may have had brilliant ideas on logic, but his practical application of it to scientific matters was sporadic at best.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Town Crier

      Praise God, are you refering to a deist god and not a theist god in that post... before I tear that comment apart? I'd rather not eat my own here.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Praise God

      Maya, almost figured someone would go there. Yes Plato and Aristotle were obviously not right about everything, but if you're going to look to antiquity like Seneca, I find it prudent to include those pre-Christians who deduced from nature and reason that the universe was ordered by an intelligent creator. As to which is more ridiculous, of course the Greco-Roman pantheon was more ridiculous. Science has certainly disproved it including there is no chariot pulling the sun. The only thing one could claim as contrary to science in Judeo-Christian faith is a literalist, fundamentalist view of the bible including Genesis. And even there it is not so much "disproved" as unlikely. I believe a creator of the universe could have done it in 6 days however science would certainly suggest it was more like 13.7 billion years. But as long as one does not adhere to that, there is no reason to reject the supernatural. One can see recent mirculous healings as well as ones in the bible.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:38 am |
    • Praise God

      Town Crier, well I believe in the Judeo-Christian God but I am not saying Plato and Aristotle did, so I'm not sure I understand your question. I certainly find any support for a single creator of the universe and a single intelligent designer of the order in the universe to be in support of what I believe – and it certainly does not contradict it. I fully realize you can raise the argument, well how does it support the Judeo-Christian God and not "some other" God. Well, to that I refer you to Jewish and catholic belief. Both hold that the one true God and creator of the universe revealed HImself to all people. I find the fact that nearly all cultures had some belief in a deity and sensed the spiritual to be in support of God's existence. The Native Americans and Druids exemplify for me the common way primitive people sensed the spiritual but simply mis-attributed it. I've heard Richard Dawkins talk of the "juju-something god of the mountain" – I see this as similar. No doubt some tribe sensed a spiritual being and attributed it to the biggest thing they saw – a mountain. Or others to the sun. In Hindu belief there is in the oldest Vedic writings a belief in a singular creative force. As the catholic church teaches the problem is humans are imperfect receivers. Hence God as by analogy if as rays of light would be seen through an imperfect lens and perceived as distorted rays of light. But there is still then truth to be found among all peoples. To me again it all fits. And as Plato and Aristotle believed in only 1 intelligent designer, that fits very well with my belief in one God.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • Town Crier

      Praise...... Why would it take 6 days? Why would there be a time constraint. Why would God have a need for rest, the sabbath, the seventh day? These are qualities of us, of humans, as are pride, jealousy, and anger. I cannot prove or disprove the existent of any God, however for those that do believe how do you set aside the cognitive dissonance?

      January 6, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Praise God

      Town Crier, I thought I was clear, I don't take Genesis literally. God took how long He took. And why would He rest afterwards? Why not? Why does He have to be constantly creating? Your questions really don't make sense like you seem to think they do. I see no dissonance there. As far as pride, really? Where do you see God having pride? As far as jealousy I think you misunderstand scripture. God told us He is a jealous God. If you only understood that verse. It is beautiful. It touches my heart to think God loves us that much that even though He doesn't need us He would tell us He is jealous if we turn away from Him – because He wants us to stay close to Him. Not for His sake – for OURS ! It is such a loving statement, so harmonious and consonant with a loving creator. And anger? Again, are you sure you understand? What if God only spoke to humans in that language – a language we could understand? Again, not for His sake but ours – because we needed to understand what was wrong, so He told us He was angry or acted angry. As God said, it is like a child's play. And yet even so, what if God was angry? Who are you to say He would not be angry or that this is solely a human emotion. I find no dissonance to think a creator could become angry. It all depends on particular principles. For example, free will and opportunity. Now if God provided no free will to humans, He could hardly be angry at them. Similarly if He provided free will but no opportunity to exercise it, again how could He be angry. But if He tireless labored for us, loved us, explained so much to us, gave us free will and opportunity to learn and we still rejected Him? Yes, I could well see Him being angry with us – and yet I say this only from my limited human understanding. I don't really claim to understand the mind or emotions of God. It's simply that there is no dissonance. Rather, I find it odd you would think there is dissonance and I would think that only comes from your pride. For it is you who seem to think you understand the mind of God. You think that if God speaks to us in a language we understand including anger, that it means you understand His emotions more than you do. Perhaps then I can see why in your false assumptions you find dissonance – but the dissonance is only created by your false beliefs.

      January 6, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • Town Crier

      Praise... you do not have to take the scriptures literally. Do you believe Balaam really rode opon a speaking donkey? I cannot claim to know the mind of God however, resting impiles a state of tiredness, does it not? You do realize that free will is an illusion right? What is the alternative?

      January 6, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  20. tony

    Religion doesn't "matter" in a democracy, it is diametrically opposed to it. One god, ruler of heaven and earth, etc.,

    January 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.