why does the new hampshire primary matter

After his 1980 Iowa victory, Bush looked "forward to 'big mo' being on our side. "
At the root of that momentum are two V's: visibility and viability, both of which attract cash to a campaign. Historically, Iowa and New Hampshire account for about half the news media coverage of the entire primary season, with the winners absorbing the lion's share of the attention. Moreover, coverage of the winners tends to be almost entirely positive, which fuels rising poll numbers. It's extremely difficult for those who fail to win either of the first races to catch up. Kerry's name identification and favorability both skyrocketed by 30 points after his Iowa and New Hampshire triumphs. In 2008, Mike Huckabee added more than 20 points in name ID after his Iowa victory, though he ultimately lost the nomination to McCain, the New Hampshire victor. Voter assessments of candidates' viability matter as well. Most people want to support a candidate they believe has some chance of winning. Early victories provide incontrovertible evidence that a candidate can win. Losses raise questions about viability в questions the media reinforce by asking losers daily how long they plan to remain in the race. And donors flood winners with cash, while losers' bank accounts dwindle.


Where does this leave the Republicans of 2012? The Hawkeye State dashed the hopes of a raft of former front-runners: Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. Having once been a front-runner, Ron Paul too needed a victory in Iowa to become a viable candidate, and his third-place showing won't bestow much benefit in the races to come. Romney's Iowa showing will almost certainly propel him to victory in New Hampshire, where his service as governor of Massachusetts в whose media markets cover most of the Granite State в already gives him a substantial edge. It's the kind of innate advantage that gave the state to Kerry after his Iowa victory. And if Romney wins both early contests, he will probably capture the nomination as well. Other candidates may win some states down the road (as, say, John Edwards did against Kerry in 2004), but that will do little to alter the final outcome. Santorum's surprise showing could throw a wrench into those calculations and reshape the race if he skips New Hampshire and brings in the cash and fields the organization necessary to win enough of the primaries that follow. But the hurdles will be high for what has been, at least until now, a bare-bones effort.


But pay no attention to all the talk about "three tickets out of Iowa" в it's hard to imagine anyone other than Romney or Santorum capturing the nomination. When all is said and done, the eventual Republican nominee will most likely have come in first either in Iowa, New Hampshire or both. Mark Mellman is president of a consulting firm that provides research-based strategy to Democratic candidates, public interest groups and corporations. New Hampshire voters take the responsibility of holding AmericaБs first presidential primary seriously, basking in the attention of a parade of candidates every four years, enjoying Б Б the stateБs moment in the national spotlight. But how did it get its Бfirst-in-the-nationБ status? The story goes back to 1916, when New Hampshire held its first primary, an antiquated process that listed only those hoping to become convention delegates on the ballot. Presidential preferences remained shrouded in secrecy. (It was the first-in-the-nation primary for the first time in 1920. ) Things changed in 1949, as Elaine Kamarck notes in her book, Richard Upton, the speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, wanted to generate more turnout at the polls and make the process Бmore interesting and meaningful.


Б He did so by amending the law to allow voters to directly pick candidates who had enough petitions to make the ballot. Other states did not follow suit for decades, but New Hampshire became the star of the primary season map in 1952. It was that year that supporters of Dwight D. Eisenhower put the former World War II general s name on New HampshireБs Republican ballot. A surprising victory springboarded him to the nomination and the presidency. To protect its first-state status, New Hampshire passed legislation to prevent others from pre-empting its primary election. The state law says: БThe presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is seven days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election. Б Although New Hampshire has managed to retain the first primary election, much has changed since the days of Mr. Eisenhower. While todayБs candidates hold hundreds of town halls and essentially camp out in the state for months, the former general and future president who made it famous never set foot in New Hampshire before winning its primary.

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