"Granite Staters are tough but fair with those who would be President. Toward the end of the race, when the temperature gets colder and the campaigning gets hotter, it takes dedication to survive. Here is democracy at its best, for it takes more than a big bankroll or name recognition to impress us." --Nackey Loeb
Revised Statutes, TITLE LXIII, Chapter 653 +
653:9 Presidential Primary Election. – The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a Tuesday selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous...
The premise and the promise of New Hampshire's first in the nation primary is that it allows even little-known, underfunded candidates to have a chance at winning the White House. By engaging in grassroots politics, visiting ordinary citizens in their living rooms and meeting them in diners, a candidate can gain favorable notice, attract support of activists, do well in the primary, and thereby gain momentum going into the rest of the nominating process. Secretary of State Bill Gardner points out that not only do New Hampshire citizens have great opportunities to learn about the candidates, but the candidates themselves learn a lot by going through the process (+). Critics argue that New Hampshire is not representative and should not be granted a privileged position, but the state has repeatedly fended off challenges to its first-in-the-nation status.
New Hampshire has a strong grassroots democratic tradition.
Hampshire's "citizen legislature," consists of the 400-member House and
Senate. The House is the largest state legislative body in the
United States. (Legislators
receive a salary of $200 per biennium). Many citizens also serve
in local government or at least have the experience of participating in
the local town hall meetings.
Over the decades, the New Hampshire primary has produced many
memorable scenes, and each succeeding primary reinforces
the proud tradition. The primary and all the comings and goings
provide a tremendous economic boost to the state.
The large Republican field means the Granite State is
seeing much more
Republican than Democratic traffic. For example, in August 2015,
Republicans made 32 visits totalling 54 days, while five Democrats made
nine visits totaling 13 days. (The difference would have been
even greater had the Democrats' numbers not been inflated by former
Gov. Lincoln Chafee's intense New Hampshire focus).
The cast of characters was quite different in New Hampshire than in
Iowa. As the first primary state, New Hampshire attracts more
On the Republican side, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. John Kasich, Gov.
Jeb Bush, Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Gov. George Pataki, and
former Gov. Jim Gilmore went "all in" in New Hampshire, while former
Gov. Mike Huckabee, then-Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick
Santorum were largely absent.
On the Democratic side, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had the
biggest campaign organization while Sen. Bernie Sanders competed
vigorously. Although he started later here than in
Iowa, he may benefit because he hails from neighboring Vermont.
Former Gov. Martin O'Malley tried to gain
traction, but withdrew following the Feb. 1, 2016 Iowa cacuces.
Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee made a total of 32 visits,
all trips in and out on the same day, before ending his bid on Oct. 23,
Potential Republican and Democratic presidential
candidates made over 60 trips
to the Granite
State during the 2013-14 cycle. In addition to helping local
party committees and candidates, they used these visits to connect with
activists and potential
supporters. The first visit of the 2016 cycle came on May 10,
from Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA).
New Hampshire is fairly evenly
split politically (registration as of Nov. 4, 2014 was 239,692
Democrats, 272,300 Republicans, and 384,837 Undeclared for a total of
896,829). High-profile contests included the U.S. Senate race and
both U.S. House races. A total of 495,453 votes were counted in
the Nov. 4 general election.
• Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) defeated Walt
Havenstein (R) by 52.4% to 47.4% to win a second term..
• U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) defeatedt
former Mass. U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R) by 51.5% to 48.2%.
• Both U.S. House seats were competitive. In the 1st CD, which
includes Manchester, former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta (R) won a rematch
with U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter by 51.7% to 48.1%. In the 2nd
Nashua, Concord and the
whole western and northern part of the state, U.S. Rep. Ann McLane
Kuster (D) defeated state Rep.
Marilinda Garcia (R) by 55.0% to 45.0%.
• In the state Senate all 24 seats were up. Republicans gained
seats taking the balance from 12 Republicans, 11 Democrats and 1
vacancy to 14 Republicans, 10 Democrats (+).
• Republicans gained control in the House of Representatives, where
all 400 seats were up. The balance shifted from 212
Democrats, 172 Republicans and 16 vacancies to 239 Republicans, 169
Democrats and 1 other (+).
Potential presidential candidates helped out in these races as
well as with party events. There was more than twice as much
activity by potential Republican candidates because of the larger pool
of prospects. The most frequent potential candidate to visit was
U.S. Rep. Peter
King, who made a total of eight visits in 2013-14, but whose interest
seemed to wane in the latter half of 2014. Gov. Christie, came in
next with five visits followed by Sens. Paul and Cruz and Gov. Jindal
at four. There were a few early talent signings. In
July 2014 Sen. Rand Paul's RAND PAC announced Mike Biundo as New
England chief strategist, and veteran operative Mike Dennehy
advised Gov. Rick Perry. On the Democratic side, Gov. Martin
O'Malley's O'PAC paid for staff to help out Democrats in the early
states, including New Hampshire. Also of note, the independent
Ready for Hillary super PAC started its organizing in the state with
meetings on Jan. 7, 2014, announced NH operative Sean Downey as its
Northeast regional organizing director in April, and had volunteers
signing up supporters at fairs, parades, festivals and
New Hampshire's first status is enshrined
in state law, and
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has demonstrated time and
will not budge when it comes to protecting the first
status, including the seven-day cushion. In the last cycle
Gardner even threatened to hold the primary in December 2011. (In
an Oct, 12, 2011
Gardner wrote that, "The dates of Tuesday, December
13th, and Tuesday, December 6th are realistic options, and we have
logistics in place to make either date happen if needed.") Not
2, 2011 did
the date of the primary as
Jan. 10, 2012. In 2007 Gardner's announcement came even later; on
Nov. 21, 2007 he announced the date as Jan. 8, 2008 (+).
states threatened New Hampshire's position,
and Gardner attracted
little notice on Dec. 17, 2015 when he made the Feb. 9, 2016 date
Presidential hopefuls will encounter media environment
that has changed
from recent cycles. Most notably, Bill Binnie, who sought the
Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2010, has revamped
Binnie Media's NH1 News launched on Sept. 15, 2014. Based in
NH1 encompasses television and radio, and has a staff of more than one
hundred, including such talent as veteran statehouse reporter Kevin
Landrigan, formerly of the Nashua Telegraph,
Leader for 34 years and wrote the "Granite
moved to New Hampshire Journal
in March 2014, where
Reports" for a year; he is joining WMUR's politics team
effective April 6, 2015.
Globe following the 2014 midterms.
With 10 counties and a population of
1.3 million, New Hampshire is a bit easier to travel around in than
Iowa, although getting up to Coos County in the far north requires a
bit of a trek. As in Iowa, candidates must put in time speaking
groups in living
rooms and small businesses around the state. Their campaigns
work to build a team of committed county chairs and precinct captains
and obtain endorsements from state
and local officials. Campaign headquarters open in Concord or
Manchester. The ad campaign gears up. Debates
provide an opportunity for the candidates' supporters to engage in sign
Some candidates may choose to focus on the New
Hampshire primary over the Iowa caucuses, viewing it as providing a
"level playing field" which does
not require as much resources as Iowa or the greater attention to
social issues there. In the 2011-12 campaign, for example,
four campaigns staked their survival on
achieving a strong showing in the primary. Former Gov. Buddy
Roemer took up residence
Gov. Gary Johnson's
campaign set out "The New Hampshire Path,"
In the fall the leaves turn, and the candidates continue to visit. Adding further color to the race are lesser known candidates, for it is relatively easy to get on the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot. On Sept. 30, 2015 Secretary of State Gardner set the filing period for the presidential primary for Nov. 4-Nov. 20, 2015. Most of the major candidates make the visit to the Secretary of State's office in the Capitol, where surrounded by reporters, they sit at the historic maple desk from 1819 and put their name to paper. In both 2007 (>) and 2011 (>) a total of 44 candidates filed to appear on the ballot as presidential candidates.
winter the snow falls, and still the candidates continue their
visits. After the Caucus Night celebrations in Iowa, the
remaining candidates head immediately to New Hampshire for a final week
of campaigning. Elm Street in Manchester becomes a bit of a zoo,
crowded with supporters of the candidates, representatives of various
interest groups trying to get their messages out,
Undeclared voters can vote in either party's
primary. The procedure is simple. Upon entering the polling
place, a voter declares for one of the parties and votes on that
party's ballot; after voting he or she can return to the undeclared
status. As noted above, undeclared or independent voters form a
Beginning with the counting of the votes in tiny
Dixville Notch and
Hart's Location, results trickle in on primary night. Supporters
the various candidates gather, usually in the Manchester area, to watch
and see who will be able to claim the boost coming out of
In the last six New Hampshire Republican primaries, five were competitive. The first-place finisher has gone on to win the nomination three times (former Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012, Sen. John McCain in 2008, and President George H.W. Bush fending off Pat Buchanan in 1992). The second-place finisher ended up winning the nomination twice (Gov. George W. Bush in 2000, after finishing second to McCain, and Sen. Bob Dole in 1996 after finishing second to Buchanan).
|Jan. 10, 2012||Romney 97,591 (39.2%), Paul 56,872 (22.9%), Huntsman 41,964 (16.9%), Santorum 23,432 (9.4%), Gingrich 23,421 (9.4%), Others 3,195 (1.3%).||248,475|
|Jan. 8, 2008
Romney 75,675 (31.6%), Huckabee 26,916 (11.2%)...
||Bush 53,962 (79.8%), Others 13,662 (20.2%).||67,624
|Feb. 1, 2000
||McCain 115,606 (48.5%), Bush 72,330 (30.3%), Forbes 30,166 (12.6%)...||238,606|
|Feb. 20, 1996
Dole 54,738 (26.2%), Alexander 47,148 (22.6%)...
|Feb. 18, 1992
65,106 (37.6%), Others 16,037 (9.2%).
In the last six New Hampshire Democratic primaries, three were competitive. In 2000 Vice President Gore won the primary and went on to win the nomination. In 2008, Sen. Hillary Clinton bounced back from Iowa, but it was the second place finisher Sen. Barack Obama who went on to win the nomination. In 2000, Gov. Bill Clinton finished second to Sen. Paul Tsongas but declared himself the "comeback kid" and went on to win the nomination.
|Jan. 10, 2012||Obama 49,080 (82.0%), Others 10,792 (18.0%).|| 59,872
|Jan. 8, 2008
(39.1%), Obama 104,815 (36.5%), Edwards 48,699
||Kerry 84,377 (38.4%), Dean 57,761 (26.3%), Clark 27,314 (12.4%)...||219,787
|Feb. 1, 2000
||Gore 76,897 (49.7%), Bradley 70,502 (45.6%), Others 7,238 (4.7%).||154,637|
|Feb. 20, 1996
(84.4%), Others 14,230 (15.6%).
|Feb. 18, 1992
(33.2%), Clinton 41,540
(24.8%), Kerrey 18,584 (11.1%)...
DNC rules specify specific dates for the four
early states, including Feb. 9, 2016 for New Hampshire, while
RNC rules have a general carve-out period that
covers the four early states.
However, state law, cited above, trumps the
other states move up their primary dates and encroach on the window,
Secretary of State Bill Gardner will move its date forward.
DNC Rule 11 - "...Provided, however, that the
precinct caucuses may be held no earlier than 29 days before the first
Tuesday in March; that the New Hampshire primary may be held no earlier
than 21 days before the first Tuesday in March; that the Nevada
first-tier caucuses may be held no earlier than 10 days before the
first Tuesday in March; and that the South Carolina primary may be held
no earlier than 3 days before the first Tuesday in March..."
RNC Rule 16 (4) (c) (1) - "No primary, caucus, convention, or other process to elect, select, allocate, or bind delegates to the national convention shall occur prior to March 1 or after the second Saturday in June in the year in which a national convention is held. Except Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada may conduct their processes no earlier than one month before the next earliest state in the year in which a national convention is held and shall not be subject to the provisions of paragraph (c)(2) of this rule."