CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — For 60 years, New Hampshire has jealously guarded the right to hold the earliest presidential primary, fending off bigger states that claimed that the small New England state was too white to represent the nation’s diverse population.
In its defense, New Hampshire jokingly brags that its voters won’t pick a presidential candidate until they’ve met at least three times face-to-face — rather than seeing the person in television ads or at large events typical of bigger states. New Hampshire voters expect to shake hands with candidates at coffees that supporters host in their homes or at backyard barbecues.
That tradition paid off in 1976 for a little-known peanut farmer and former Georgia governor. Jimmy Carter won in New Hampshire and went on to become president.
New Hampshire established its primary in 1916 to pick delegates to the national nominating conventions, but no candidates came to campaign. That all changed in 1952, when the primary became a launching pad for candidates seeking the White House.
For years, no one who lost a New Hampshire primary won the presidency — until Bill Clinton lost in 1992. George W. Bush lost in 2000 and Barack Obama lost in 2008.
Sometimes a New Hampshire loser can turn a loss into a victory. Clinton’s second-place finish after trailing badly in the polls earned him the label as the “comeback kid.” In 1968, Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s strong second-place finish helped galvanize opposition to the Vietnam War and push President Lyndon Johnson from the race.
By law, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner must set the primary at least seven days ahead of all similar contests regardless of dates selected by the national parties. As other states have moved up their contests, New Hampshire has countered by holding its primary earlier and earlier.
This year, Gardner threatened to set a December 2011 date if Nevada insisted on holding its caucuses Jan. 14. Nevada decided to hold them in February, and Gardner set New Hampshire’s date on Jan. 10, making it the earliest primary. Iowa’s caucuses took place Jan. 3.
Primaries are statewide elections in which voters cast ballots at the polls, while caucuses are party meetings in which registered voters gather to discuss candidates and select delegates.
New Hampshire primary supporters argue that the state is small enough — about 1.3 million people — to give voters a chance to meet candidates and ask questions. New Hampshire prides itself on its government being close to the people with a 400-member House, which will be one representative for every 3,291 people when new districts are drawn next year.
Though almost 94 percent of the population is white, the number of immigrants settling in the state is gradually changing that demographic.
Also changing is the state’s once rock-solid Republican majority. The 312,621 undeclared voters now outnumber both registered Democrats (223,151) and Republicans (231,611).
In general elections, Democrat Barack Obama won the state in 2008 and Democrat John Kerry edged Bush in 2004. Many political pundits place New Hampshire and its four electoral votes in the purple column — states up for grabs.
More Related Stories
- If Alex Pareene was a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Glenn Beck: "The American people have just been raped"
- "Original Coca-Cola had a very small amount of cocaine"
- Corporations accused of wrongdoing win battle to keep identities secret
- Weak, incompetent Democrats blow another one
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- Biden cracks Obama teleprompter joke
- IRS official takes the Fifth: "I have not done anything wrong"
- Lessons from Lincoln leave gay immigrants behind
- Los Angeles elects first Jewish mayor
- Peter King: There's "hypocrisy" over aid by Oklahoma senators
- Anthony Weiner announces run for NYC mayor
- How policy nihilists in the Senate doomed LGBT immigrants
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11