"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
First-in-the-Nation     The Campaign Heats Up     Independents form an Important Voting Bloc    Historical Perspective: Republicans     Resources
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State of New Hamsphire 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.

The first status
is in fact enshrined in state lawAlthough the DNC has set February 14, 2012 as the date for the New Hampshire primary, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has the final say as to the date of the primary.  Gardner notes that the DNC's date for the Nevada caucuses, February 18, violates the seven days set out in New Hampshire law, and he has demonstrated time and again he will not budge when it comes to protecting the Granite State's first status, including the seven day cushion.  New Hampshirites will not bend on this (>).  Pencil in February 14 on your calendar, but be prepared to erase it.

New Hampshire activists take their politics very seriously.  The state has a grassroots democratic tradtion.  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.

As in Iowa, there is a lot of traffic by presidential prospects as they seek to connect with activists and potential supporters.  This activity starts several years in advance of the primary.  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.  By mid-August 2010 nine potential GOP candidates had made 20 visits totalling 26 days. 

In the 2010 mid-term elections, Republicans have competitive primaries for governor, U.S. Senate and both U.S. House seats and have hopes of making gains in both chambers of the General Court (Senate 14D-10R and House 222D-176R-2v).  Republican presidential prospects have general steered clear of weighing in on the competitive primaries, instead choosing to raise money for the state party or local party committees.  Sarah Palin did endorse former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte for the U.S. Senate primary in July, but there were many reports afterwards that the endorsement actually cost Ayotte 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.  At some point the ad campaign gears up.  Debates provide an opportunity for the candidates' supporters to engage in sign wars.  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.  During the last campaign, the three-week filing period ran from late Oct. to early Nov. 2007.  Forty-four candidates filed for president (26 in person, 1 via representative and the rest by mail), although two were disqualified; three candidates also filed for vice president (>).  Most of the major candidates made the visit to the Secretary of State's office in the Capitol, where surrounded by reporters, the sat at the historic maple desk from 1819 and put their name to paper.  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). 

Historical Perspective: Republicans
If he runs, which appears likely, former Gov. Mitt Romney would be able to build upon his second place showing in the 2008 primary.  He also has a bit of an advantage in that he and wife Ann have a home in Wolfeboro on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Feb. 26, 1980

Feb. 16, 1988

Feb. 18, 1992
Feb. 20, 1996

Feb. 1, 2000

 Jan. 8, 2008
Reagan* (49.6%)
G.H.W. Bush (22.7%)
H.Baker (12.1%)
Anderson (9.8%)
Crane (1.8%)
Connally (1.5%)


G.H.W.Bush* (37.8%)
Dole (28.6%)
Kemp (12.7%)
DuPont (10.7%)
Robertson (9.4%)


G.H.W. Bush* (53.2%)
Buchanan (36.5%)

total 177,970

(Dem. 170,333)

Buchanan (27.2%)
Dole* (26.2%)
Alexander (22.6%)
Forbes (12.2%)
Lugar (5.2%)
Keyes (2.7%)
Taylor (1.4%)

total 210,211

(Dem. 93,044)

McCain (48.5%)
G.W.Bush* (30.3%)
Forbes (12.6%)
Keyes (6.4%)
Bauer (0.7%)


(Dem. 154,639)

McCain* (37.0%)
Romney (31.6%)
Huckabee (11.2%)
Giuliani (8.5%)
Paul (7.7%)
F.Thompson (1.2%)
Hunter (0.5%)

total 239,328

(Dem. 287,557)

Reagan unopposed in 1984 and G.W. Bush unopposed in 2004.

Dante J. Scala.  Dec. 2003.  STORMY WEATHER: The New Hampshire Primary and Presidential Politics.  New York: Palgrave McMillan.
"Scala explains the importance and peculiarities of New Hampshire, providing both historical context and insights, based on extensive interviews, into the tensions between local politics and the national agendas of candidates. New Hampshire's sympathy for reformist candidates has the paradoxical effect of jumpstarting the campaigns of those candidates least representative of voters nationally, and Scala explores the tremendous implications for presidential politics. Scala explains what it takes for candidates to make the Granite State a launching pad rather than a crash landing."

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