New Hampshire’s status as the first state in the nation to hold presidential primaries is being challenged, this time by a bill in Nevada that would cause the state to hold primaries before New Hampshire. However, New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Raymond Buckley said while he is monitoring the situation he is not worried.
“We feel pretty confident that we will be successful once again,” said Buckley.
Buckley argues that NH takes its role seriously. “We look at it as a responsibility, not just something that’s fun.” Furthermore, Buckley said New Hampshire has acted like a spring board for many famous political figures. “It has given a voice to a lot of candidates over the decades that never would have been national leaders,” said Buckley. Buckley cites politicians like John F. Kennedy and Bernie Sanders of having benefited in this manner.
But New Hampshire’s role in the primaries hasn’t always been so important, said Andy Smith, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and director of the UNH Survey Center.
In fact, Smith said the New Hampshire primary was only the first in the nation by accident. “The reason we chose an early date for our primary back in 1916 was that frankly we were cheap,” said Smith. The date was decided so that it would correspond with town meeting day and therefore the town hall would only have to be opened up once.
At the time Smith said this wasn’t a big deal. “Frankly nobody cared about the New Hampshire primary being first after that,” said Smith.
Smith said it wasn’t until much later that the rest of the nation started paying attention to New Hampshire primaries. “1968 was the first one where it really seemed to make a difference on who the eventual nominee was,” said Smith.
The role of the media in the primary has also been important, said Smith. “Now the media use the entire nomination process as part of their programming as a way to focus everybody on the next contest to keep them watching TV,” said Smith.
Smith doubts any change will come of the new push by Nevada, but if it did, he said it would have to come as a result of a mandate by the parties. These parties, Smith said, could take away delegates from candidates who chose to run in an unsanctioned primary.
While New Hampshire has been a good predictor in the past, Smith said as of recently its outcomes have not been predictive of the national race. “On the Democratic side the last three candidates who won New Hampshire didn’t win [the nomination],” said Smith
The New Hampshire Secretary of State is required by state law to set the primary date seven days before any similar contest in the nation.
Photo courtesy of Election Central.