New Hampshire first held a primary election in 1916, and a century ago this year began its tradition of being the first state in the nation to hold its annual primary.
It was not until the late 1940s, however, that in an attempt to make the primary “more interesting and meaningful” and generate greater turnout, the state legislature changed the law to allow voters to directly pick candidates who had qualified for the ballot, rather than simply voting for convention delegates.
After the relatively tiny New England state — which has only two representatives in the House and four Electoral College votes — had an outsized influence in the 1952 election of President Dwight Eisenhower, the New Hampshire General Court passed legislation protecting its first-in-the-nation primary status.
Ever since then, the Granite State has been “basking in the attention of a parade of candidates every four years,” in the words of Alan Rappeport of the New York Times.
“The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date 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,” New Hampshire law states.
The Iowa caucuses — the source of considerable chaos and confusion this year with Democratic candidates Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders nearly tied for first place — are not considered a “similar election” for the state of New Hampshire’s purposes.
While I once would have seen the outcome of the primaries as a truly monumental development, I have since come to view such electoral contests as a form of spectator entertainment closer in nature to professional wrestling — not the least because the current U.S. president, Donald Trump, once actually entered the WWE ring to lay the smackdown on Vince McMahon.
So although I am interested in what the candidates have to say about their positions on the issues which they hope to leverage to sway voters to their side in their final debate before the primary, I am probably more interested in the campaign antics and publicity stunts I will get a chance to witness after my Friday arrival in New Hampshire.
While for obvious reasons the Democratic Primary is the main attraction for most of the media representatives who will, like myself, flock to the state in the next few days, I am also interested in the post-impeachment-acquittal Republican Primary.
Although several states — including Kansas, Alaska, South Carolina, Arizona, and Nevada — have canceled their 2020 GOP primaries, New Hampshire’s Republican Party apparently will not — though Steve Duprey, New Hampshire's national Republican committeeman who pledged last year that the primary would happen “whether there's token opposition or a serious contest" has since resigned.
While they may indeed represent “token opposition,” those who have registered at least some measurable percentage in polls as challengers to Trump for the Republican nomination include former Ohio governor and 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
All in all, the New Hampshire primaries promise to provide a variety of opportunities for interesting political coverage, and being in the thick of things, I plan to make the most of them.