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Why is New Hampshire’s primary so important?

How can a tiny state in northern New England be so important in the U.S. presidential selection process? New Hampshire is miniscule – smaller than the average county in Wyoming, Arizona or Nevada. It’s 42nd in U.S. population — even little Puerto Rico out in the Caribbean has more people, more than twice as many, actually.

Welcome to New Hampshire


Yet, every four years, politicians flock to the Granite State in hopes of a dramatic win in its presidential primary election – the first in the nation.

A loss can be catastrophic. When Democratic challenger Estes Kefauver defeated incumbent President Harry S. Truman there in 1952, Truman abandoned his campaign for a second term. At the height of the Vietnam War in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson managed only a 49 percent victory over Senator Eugene McCarthy and withdrew from the race with his famous prime-time TV declaration: “I shall not seek, and will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

By New Hampshire state law, the primary is the first in the nation. If another state moves theirs up, New Hampshire responds in kind. New Hampshire State Statute 653:9 stipulates that the primary must take place at least seven days before any “similar election” in any other state.


Somehow, New Hampshire lawmakers do not consider the Iowa caucuses to be “a similar election,” so, in recent election cycles, the primary has taken place a week or so after the Iowa event.

But when other states have sought to move up their primaries to dilute New Hampshire’s impact, state law always kicks in. From 1952 to 1968, the primary was held on the second Tuesday in March. In 1972, it was shifted to the first Tuesday in March. From 1976 to 1984, it was advanced to the fourth Tuesday in February. From 1988 to 1996, it was moved up to the third Tuesday in February, then in 2000 was held on February 1.

In 2004, it was moved up to the fourth Tuesday in January, then in 2008, it advanced to the earliest date yet — on the second Tuesday in January, where it remains.


Although only a tiny number of delegates are chosen, the New Hampshire primary’s vast importance comes from the massive media coverage it receives. In recent years, it and the Iowa caucuses received

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  • Sherwood Bauman-Martinelli

    Come on….who are we kidding, the Emperor has no clothes. Neither the Iowa or New Hampshire caucus votes are important and all powerful…we just allow bogus media hype to make us believe that these two states and their voters are important to the rest of America.

    Both these states love the infusion of cash and National media focus that comes with being the first and second primaries, and in the name of headlines, the national news media plays along in the game sharing with America almost daily polls where the candidates stand in these two baby states. Since when did the voting public of America become so stupid as to believe that two states with a combined population of just 4.4 million people should get the lions share of pre-primary attention from the candidates and the National Media, should choose who the rest of us should be voting for moving forward. Is it fair that two baby states are getting to cull the field so to speak…of course not, and it is time the status quo changed…traditional be damned.

    Let the rest of America end this bogus charade, lets end a game that sees two little tiny back water states getting far more attention from the candidates and the media than they deserve. All 50 states sharing the political arena spotlight…WHAT A CONCEPT.

    Here is an idea that I am sure folks in Iowa and New Hampshire would love. Pennsylvania, Ohio and the state of New York should all get together, all three states holding their primary elections on the same day. We will call this event the PONY Primaries. WOW, think about it…three BIG MUST WIN STATES choosing their Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates in one day. Three states with a combined population of 32.6 million, a group of people representing ten times the population of these two baby states letting their voices be heard, and finally forcing both politicians and National Media to give us our fair share of attention during the election cycle. Talk about sucking the wind out of Iowa and New Hampshires political sails….that would do it.

    Move over Iowa and New Hampshire, here come the PONY Primaries.

  • caligirl1960

    Nobody listens to the media anymore

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