Taking the First-In-The-Nation presidential primary away from New Hampshire is akin to yanking the Indy 500 from Indiana or the Kentucky Derby from Kentucky. But the Granite State’s hold on FITN has always been tenuous—requiring constant vigilance and hard work to retain.
In other words, while South Carolina would never abscond with the Kentucky Derby, it—or any other state—would happily take away our FITN.
But large states like California or Florida are poor fits for FITN. A smaller state is essential if retail politicking is to play a role in our candidate selection process. It allows underdogs like Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, and Pat Buchanan to actually come to a place like New Hampshire and win. Such candidacies, even if ultimately unsuccessful, help winnow the field while also shaping the national debate in important ways. Our FITN is (dare I say?) “inclusive!”
A New York, Texas, or Illinois FITN would immediately disqualify all but the most monied candidates. That dynamic is well-understood. The FITN must be in a small state.
But there are other small states. Why not Rhode Island or West Virginia? Well, the former is too blue, and the latter is too red. FITN belongs in a purple battleground state, where the political/media culture is not dominated by one party or the other.
Like New Hampshire.
But while tradition has value, traditions sometimes bear scrutiny. There are silly traditions, like the annual presidential turkey pardon or West Virginia’s Roadkill Cook-off. Is there value to N.H.’s FITN tradition?
Yes. And numbers document this value.
Impressive percentages of Granite Staters show up to vote in presidential primary elections. The internet is replete with statistics documenting unsurpassed New Hampshire FITN voting participation, with typically a majority of voters in most precincts or districts showing up. So, why would a state with a 7 percent primary participation rate deserve the FITN?
Enter Joe Biden, who epitomizes the craven, calculating, corrupt, career politician. As Barack Obama famously said, “Don’t underestimate Joe Biden’s ability to **** things up.”
Even before the voting had concluded during the 2020 FITN, in which Biden finished fifth, he abandoned his New Hampshire supporters to fly to South Carolina to make a Faustian bargain with Palmetto State powerbroker Rep. Jim Clyburn. In exchange for Clyburn’s support, Biden agreed to pick a woman of color as vice president while also pushing South Carolina for FITN status.
Biden’s progressive knock on New Hampshire was that it was “too White.” Thus, he favored a state where over 60 percent of Democrat voters are non-White—which is even less reflective of American demographics. Oh well.
As Obama said ….
Now, New Hampshire establishment Dems are working hard to promote a write-in vote for a president who disdained having his name on the New Hampshire ballot. Good luck with that. Any Democrat who cares about our FITN should vote for someone whose name is on the ballot—like Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips, who is 1) not senile, 2) not a whacko progressive “Squad” member, and 3) actually campaigns in New Hampshire.
On the Republican side, we potentially find the most historic opportunity to change our political calculus since Sen. Eugene McCarthy almost beat President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, prompting LBJ to announce his retirement.
Former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has run a near-perfect campaign, as she steadily increased her polling totals from 3 percent a year ago to numbers that now approach 40 percent. And Haley is 1) not senile, 2) not a whacko, and 3) actually campaigns in New Hampshire—far more than any other candidate. She has held a McCainesque 100+ town halls, showing Granite State voters the respect that former President Donald Trump denies them. Haley answers questions. Trump does not; his modus operandi is to blow in for a rally where he cites polls, calls people names, and then blows out.
(Full disclosure: I was the first state representative to endorse Haley—on October 30. After all, Haley’s initials are NH!)
So, as January 23 grows ever closer, New Hampshire voters find themselves at a crossroads—the likes of which we have never experienced in our political history. Two very defective, very elderly presidents are vying for our votes. And while Biden may be a craven, calculating, corrupt, career politician, at least he doesn’t face criminal indictments. Yet. Trump faces at least 91 felony counts in four states, on top of all his other baggage.
Gov. Chris Sununu correctly claims a Haley (New Hampshire) victory is essential to “save the country.” Yes, we (New Hampshire) voters have that power and responsibility. We can utterly change the trajectory of two nomination processes for the better.
If Biden and/or Trump prevail on January 23, then we lose our reputation for winnowing out unworthy candidates. That would be almost as unimaginable as Kentucky losing the Derby or Indy losing the 500.
Writer James Joyce claimed, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” Hopefully, come January 24, Granite Staters won’t look through an election portal and discover that by mistakenly choosing two utterly ignoble and nonviable candidates, we forfeited our unique and hard-earned claim to America’s historic FITN primary.