"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


State of New Hampshire 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.  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.  The General Court, New Hampshire's "citizen legislature,"consists of the 400-member House and 24-member Senate.  The House is the largest state legislative body in the United States.  (Legislators receive a salary of $200 per biennium).

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 also provide a tremendous economic boost to the state.

Drama Over the Date

New Hampshire's first status is enshrined in state law (>), and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has demonstrated time and again he will not budge when it comes to protecting the first status, including the seven day cushion.  Through to September 30, 2011, February 14, 2012 had been penciled in as the date for the New Hampshire primary; then Florida officials announced the state would hold its primary on January 31.  Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada moved forward as well setting off an intricate dance.  Gardner took issue with the Nevada GOP's announced caucuses date of January 14, 2012, viewing that as a similar election which would impinge upon New Hampshire's sacred seven-day cushion.  In an October 12, 2011 statement, 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." (>)  Some candidates proposed to boycott Nevada (>).  Ultimately, Nevada Republicans agreed to push their date back to February 4, 2012, and on November 2 Gardner announced the date of the primary as January 10, 2012.

A Slow Start

Presidential hopefuls make many trips to the Granite State as they seek to connect with activists and potential supporters; this activity starts several years in advance of the primary.  For example, from after the 2004 election to the end of 2006, major Republican prospects made 59 visits totaling 76 days and major Democratic prospects made 61 visits totaling 94 days.  In 2009-10, as in Iowa, the activity was not as great.  By Election Day Nov. 2, 2010 ten potential GOP candidates had made 31 visits totalling 37 days. (>)

The 2010 mid-term elections, produced huge gains for Republicans.  They held the U.S. Senate seat, claimed both U.S. House seats and picked up both chambers of the General Court (the Senate went from 14D-10R to 19D-5D and the House from 216D-173R-11v to 298R-102D).  However, Gov. John Lynch did keep the governor's office in Democratic hands.  In general the Republican presidential prospects steered clear of weighing in on the competitive primaries, instead choosing to raise money for the state party or local party committees and wait until the general election.  Sarah Palin did endorse former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte for the U.S. Senate primary in July, but there were reports afterwards that the endorsement actually may have cost Ayotte some support.  

The Campaign Heats Up

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 to 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 wars. 

The New Hampshire primary is particularly important for some of the candidates, who view it as providing a "level playing field" which does not require inordinate resources or disproportionate attention to social issues.  Four campaigns have staked their survival on achieving a strong showing in the primary.  Former Gov. Buddy Roemer took up residence in an apartment in Manchester on July 14, 2011.  Also in July, long shot Fred Karger leased a house in Manchester.  On September 6, 2011 former Gov. Gary Johnson's campaign set out "The New Hampshire Path." (>)  At the end of September former Gov. Jon Huntsman announced the move of his headquarters to New Hampshire.  For well over a year, however, the expectations have been that former Gov. Mitt Romney, who has a summer home on Lake Winnepesaukee, should win the primary.  He has the advantage of having run previously, and his campaign has built a strong organization.  An outcome other than a Romney win would be a surprise and could reshuffle the race. 

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.  Secretary of State Gardner set the filing period for October 17-28, 2011.  Most of the major candidates made the visit to the Secretary of State's office in the Capitol, where surrounded by reporters, they sat at the historic maple desk from 1819 and put their name to paper.  A total of 44 candidates filed to appear on the ballot as presidential candidates.  (>

In the 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 (>), and media. 

Independents Form an Important Voting Bloc

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.  Undeclared or independent voters form a significant voting group.  The January 8, 2008 voting lists showed 271,220 Republicans, 258,776 Democrats and 355,498 Undeclared for a total of 885,494 (61,712 registered on primary day).







Key Dates

June 13, 2011 - Union Leader/CNN/WMUR-TV Debate in Manchester, NH.

Sept. to end of Nov. 2011 - "We The People Town Hall: Focus on Economy" series.

Oct. 11, 2011 - Bloomberg/The Washington Post/WBIN Debate at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH.

Oct. 17-28, 2011 - Filing period for the presidential primary at the Secretary of State's Office.

Nov. 10,  2011 - Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC "A Constitutional Conversation with America" at One LIberty Lane in Hampton, NH.

Dec. 19, 2011 - Lesser-Known Candidates Forum at NHIOP in Manchester, NH.

January 7, 2011 - ABC News and WMUR-TV Debate in Manchester, NH.

January 8, 2011 - NBC News "Meet the Press"/Facebook/ Union Leader Debate in Concord, NH.

[Feb. 14, 2012 - Tentative date of New Hampshire Primary].
Jan. 10, 2012 - Date of the New Hampshire Primary.