New Hampshire has been a great start to our presidential selection process. What political junkie has not stayed up until midnight on Election Day to watch the first returns come in from Hart’s Location or Dixville Notch? Doing so every four years is a bit of Americana.
I’m always reminded of New Hampshire when I hear the voice of Martin Gabel as he begins to narrate The Making of the President 1960 the famous documentary based on the classic book of the same name by political journalist Theodore H White:
“It was invisible as always. High in the hills of New Hampshire as the clock passed midnight, the citizens of Hart’s Location gathered to fit together the first fragments of the mystery. Before the clock came around again, sixty-eight million other Americans would join these first twelve voters to give the answer.”
The Granite State forces presidential candidates to interact for months— sometimes years—with real voters. And on primary election day citizens weigh in, not in some convoluted caucus system, but by casting a single vote for a single candidate.
New Hampshire leaders haven’t been overly pleased with the comparison to Iowa and its caucus either. Former governor John Sununu once said, “The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents.”
Sure, it is true New Hampshire has not been a perfect barometer in how the primary fight will end. Democrats, as an example, picked Hillary Clinton in 2008 (Barack Obama would go on to win the nomination) and Republicans chose Pat Buchanan over eventual nominee Bob Dole in 1996.
“Now I know why they call this the Granite State, because it’s so hard to crack,” a frustrated Dole told supporters after losing the New Hampshire primary for a third time.
Yet it is in the way New Hampshirites take the process so seriously that impresses me most. And in political terms you could not ask for a better statewide split among registered Independents, Democrats, and Republicans.
There is the reality, however, that New Hampshire—94 percent white—lacks diversity, especially as our Hispanic and Latino population grows nationwide. That will lead to debate soon on whether several primaries—perhaps regional—should be held on Opening Day of primary season.
My own view is that New Hampshire should serve as the future model if and when changes are made. We need voters from smaller states who meet candidates personally over months or years to lead the way. Big states—where a campaign is driven by millions of dollars of thirty second TV spots—should not be the way we begin a selection for president.
For those in big states that are about to argue with me, I say be patient. Your state and its electoral votes will take center stage come November.
Continuing reading at Front Row Seat at the Circus!