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At a Glance



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The NH presidential primary was held on Tuesday, February 1, 2000.  Republican Summary: Total 238,606.  McCain 115,606 (48.45%); Bush 72,330 (30.31%); Forbes 30,166 (12.64%); Keyes 15,179 (6.36%); Bauer 2,040 (0.69%); Others 3,285 (1.38%).  Detailed Results by County >>
Democratic Summary: Total 154,639.  Gore 76,897 (49.73%); Bradley 70,502 (45.59%); Others (4.68%).  Detailed Results by County >>

"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

Visit Early and Often
New Hampshirites tend to get a little blasé about the presidential candidates who troop through their state. A cartoon by the Concord Monitor's Mike Marland captures some of this sentiment. The drawing shows an electronic clock and temperature indicator like one finds on the signs in front of some banks. However, in addition to the "Time" and "Temperature" settings, there is a third setting: "Presidential Candidate Visiting the State Today."

Presidential hopefuls visit New Hampshire early and often, sometimes starting within months of the last election. The pace quickens following the mid-term congressional elections. In the year before the primary, the odds are good that on any given day a presidential candidate will be in the state, or, if not, there will be news about a visit that occurred yesterday or will occur tomorrow.

New Hampshire's first in the nation presidential primary has assumed such importance not because of the number of delegates at stake (for example Puerto Rico sends more than twice as many delegates to the Democratic National Convention as does New Hampshire), but because it, along with Iowa, is the "starting block" in the presidential nominating process. A better than expected showing in New Hampshire can boost a candidacy; a poor showing can effectively end a candidacy.

Retail Politics
Because New Hampshire is a small state both geographically (it is the seventh smallest state with an area of 9,304 square miles) and population-wise (less than two million people) and because the candidates spend so much time here, voters have the opportunity to get to know the candidates person-to-person. In other states, carefully crafted 30-second television spots may be all a voter has to go on; here a candidate must be effective at one-on-one retail politics.

Retail politics means making the rounds at Lincoln Day or Jefferson-Jackson dinners, delivering speeches to Rotary Clubs and party groups, and speaking with New Hampshirites in cafes, in school auditoriums and in their homes. It means attending numerous candidate forums. It means walking down Main Street, throwing an axe at a county fair or riding a dog sled or tapping a maple tree. Visit by visit, in beautiful fall New England days and in mucky snow storms, the candidates woo voters from Coos to the sea.

They must also work to gain support of activists and elected officials who are critical to building an organization [2/99 report]. There are many elected officials for candidates to choose from; the House of Representatives alone has 400 members, making it the largest of any state in the nation. As the year progresses, candidates open up state headquarters [6/99]. The first television ads will likely appear in summer. In the fall and winter various candidate forums will be held and there will be a few debates. One or more of the candidates may not be able to generate enough support and end up pulling out of the race before the primary. In the closing weeks of the primary busloads of young supporters from around the country come in to help their favored candidates, and the media attention ratchets up. Finally, in mid-February, on primary day 2000, with the eyes of the nation upon them, somewhere between 300,000 and 350,000 New Hampshirites will turn out at the polls, and by their votes determine which candidates will go on, and which will not.

The Tradition
There have been many memorable moments in New Hampshire primaries over the years…Ronald Reagan declaring "I paid for that microphone"…Bill Clinton declaring himself "the comeback kid"… Since the first modern New Hampshire primary in 1952, strong traditions have developed. There are places the candidates must visit, such as the Capitol Diner in Concord or the WMUR-TV studios in Manchester. There is the ritual of the first primary votes being cast in Dixville Notch.

An Economic Bonanza
Holding the first-in-the-nation primary confers enormous economic benefits on New Hampshire, and state officials zealously guard the first status. It is no exaggeration to say that the long courtship of New Hampshire voters provides a comparable and probably greater boost to the state than a major party nominating convention provides to a host city. That figure is more than $100 million. For New Hampshire the visits are spread out over a year-plus. The candidates, their aides, reporters, camera crews, representatives of a number of interest groups seeking to get their messages out, and various hangers-on all flock to the state and spend money on rental cars, hotel rooms, taxis, food, event costs and advertising campaigns.

Staying First
In sum the New Hampshire primary has developed into a healthy industry, although there are concerns about its future. Other states, most notably Delaware, have sought to impinge on New Hampshire's first status. New Hampshire's first status is set in state law: "The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on the Tuesday at least 7 days immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier…" (New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated Title 63, Chapter 653.9). [interview with NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner].

Delaware law directly contradicts the seven-day provision in New Hampshire law: "…a presidential primary election for all political parties shall be conducted on the Saturday next following the day on which the state of New Hampshire elects to conduct a presidential primary election (Title 15, Chapter 31 § 3181).

Another concern is that the proliferation of media may be getting between the candidates and voters. Concord Monitor editor Mike Pride notes of the big media that, "They're getting here sooner and sooner, so if somebody, a candidate, shows up… there's forty cameras around." Also unclear is how the frontloading of the primary calendar will affect New Hampshire; will it make a strong showing in the state even more important or will it weaken the primary as candidates have to focus on other states.

Key Links

Media Coverage
NH.com-- NH Primary Information Center
Foster's Daily Democrat--Campaign 2000
Concord Monitor--Primary Monitor
New Hampshire Public Radio--New Hampshire Presidential Primary
The Union Leader--New Hampshire Primary.com
WMUR-TV 9 (ABC)--Campaign 2000
Links to New Hampshire Dailies (Gebbie Press)

Keyes 2000 New Hampshire
McCain 2000 New Hampshire
New Hampshire Team Bradley
Gore 2000 New Hampshire

New Hampshire Republican State Committee
New Hampshire Democratic Party
Libertarian Party of New Hampshire
Reform Party of New Hampshire
New Hampshire Greens
Constitution Party-NH
Natural Law Party-NH

Interest Group Activity
AARP/VOTE New Hampshire Virtual Office
New Hampshire Christian Coalition
      Report on NH Christian Coalition's First in the Nation Primary Gala Celebration
Gun Owners of New Hampshire
New Hampshire Sierra Club
New Hampshire Citizens Alliance--Money Watch 2000
Democracy in Practice: New Hampshire Youth Voter Alliance

State of New Hampshire
Cities and Towns
New Hampshire Department of State--Presidential Primary
Information from Dartmouth College's Rockefeller Center
The NH Primary Debate Partnership
New Hampshire Presidential Candidates Youth Forum--Jan. 8
College Convention 2000--Jan. 13-15, 2000, Manchester
Dates for 1999 Fairs and Expositions in New Hampshire
Attention Candidates: Have You Signed the NH Primary Pledge?
Primary Index

An Ode to the New Hampshire Primary, by Nackey Loeb
The Library & Archives of New Hampshire's Political Tradition
NH-Primary (a 1996 site)

The Granite State at a Glance.
Population (July 1999):    1,201,134 
Registered Voters (Nov. 1999)    Rep. 265,679 (35.98%), Dem. 197,816 (26.79%), Undeclared 274,927 (37.23%)--Total 738,422.
Population by County (July 1998):    Hillsborough 363,031  Rockingham 271,152  Merrimack 127,381,  Strafford 108,650,  Grafton 78,277,  Cheshire 71,828,  Belknap 52,481,  Sullivan 40,027,  Carroll 39,346,  Coos 32,875.
Largest Cities (1998):    Manchester (105,221), Nashua (83,209), Concord (38,180), Derry (32,183), Rochester (27,800), Salem (27,525), Dover (26,685), Merrimack (23,899), Keene (23,090), Portsmouth (23,100). >
Total Area:    9,304 square miles, includes 1,300 lakes and ponds. (7th smallest state).

Local Government:    10 counties, 13 municipalities, 223 towns and 22 unincorporated places.
State Government:    Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) elected 1996, re-elected 1998.  Five-member elected Executive Council, along with the Governor, adminsters the executive branch.  Legislature NH General Court--24 Senators and 400 Representatives.
Federal Government:     Senators Judd Gregg (R) and Bob Smith (R); Congressmen Charlie Bass (R) and John Sununu (R).

Labor Force and Unemployment (October 1999)(Seasonally adjusted) Civilian labor force 660,660; unemployment rate 2.5% (653,900 employed, 16,760 unemployed). most recent>
Top Ten New Hampshire Service and Manufacturing Employers: Elliot Hospital/CMC/St. Joseph Hospital; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; DeMoulas & Market Basket; Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company; Digital Equipment Corp.; Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center; Hannaford Brothers-Shop 'N Save; Shaws Supermarket Inc.; Cabletron Systems Inc.; Dartmouth College.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; NH Office of State Planning; NH Employment Security; NH State Government Web Site.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.