Reflection of the Moon Comment
Winning New Hampshire is not all it is cracked up to be
Having gone through the Iowa Cuacuses the race for the White House moves to the historic New Hampshire Primary. It is the first state to vote with a proper election, and the open nature of the contest allowing independents to choose which contest they wish to vote in on whatever basis they wish makes it all the more exciting and unpredictable, especially given no other states will vote on the same day so it will have all the publicity to itself.
After the event there will be countless analysis, where does it leave the race? who is up and who is down? This year will be double the interest as both the Democrat and Republican races are competitive with President Obama standing down. All the candidates will be out to win, holding meetings in town halls and churches up and down the state as is the New Hampshire way. But is winning this Primary really that much of a good idea?History suggests not.
First let me define the term ‘competitive year’. When I am talking about winning in a competitive year I am excluding contests where a sitting President is standing for re-election. In those years it may not be know to some that the Primary still takes place, the sitting President always wins although there is usually some token opposition to ensure there is a ballot, if only a series of wacky candidates who want to use some exposure for their own ideas. I am only including contests where the is a genuine battle for the party nomination.
So here is one for you. When was the last time a New Hampshire winner in a competitive year got to the White House? The answer goes back 28 years to 1988 and George H W Bush Senior. Barack Obama was beaten by Hilary Clinton in New Hampshire, George W Bush lost to John McCain, Bill Clinton lost to Paul Tsongas. And obviously all three of those Presidents were re-elected, so the three winner of competitive races from the challenging party in the alternate years, namely John McCain, John Kerry and Pat Buchanan, either lost the November General election, or in Buchanan’s case did not get the nomination (Losing out in the end to Bob Dole)
If George H W Bush was the last New Hampshire winner to get to the White House you have to go back to 1976 and Jimmy Carter on the Democrat side. One thing of course as President you don’t want is to be a one term President. What do Bush Senior and Carter have in common? That’s right, both were one term Presidents. Going back further to other New Hampshire winners who got to the White House, John F Kennedy ended up being assassinated, Richard Nixon had to resign in disgrace and Gerald Ford was also a one term President.
Then there are other winners who did not get the nomination, Gary Hart on the Democrat side who ended up losing to Walter Mondale and in the early New hampshire Open Primary races in the 1950’s Estes Kefauver beat Harry S Truman, Truman, having dodged this bullet, won the Presidency and went on to serve two full terms. On the Republican side Henry Cabot Lodge Junior won New Hampshire in the year Barry Goldwater got the nomination. One man who did win New Hampshire and get the nomination was Al Gore, who of course lost to the hanging chads of Florida in the General election If only he had lost New Hampshire perhaps? Michael Dukarkis was another who won the state but lost in November. Only one man since the 1960’s broke the curse winning New Hampshire and going on to serve two full terms as President, namely Ronald Reagan.
So as you enjoy the New Hampshire race, be aware of the history and beware reading too much into it. The Open nature of the Primary makes it a one off. New Hampshire is also a state where the right tend to be more Libertarian and the left more traditionally left than most of America. These may be reasons why winning New Hampshire is not always a pointer to a smooth ride to the White House, or a great ride should you manage to get there. Can either of this years winners break the curse of New Hampshire? There is a very good chance winning New Hampshire in 2016 will remain a poisoned chalice for those who are handed it.