Stormy Weather pp 193-202 | Cite as

New Hampshire as a Barometer of Presidential Primary Success

  • Dante J. Scala


While critics of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary have had no success in dislodging the Granite State from its place at the front of the line, they have had something to smile about in recent years. For decades, New Hampshire boasted of its ability to choose presidents; no candidate had been elected president without first weathering a New England winter and emerging victorious in New Hampshire. The first blemish on that clean slate appeared in 1992: Bill Clinton finished second to former Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts in the Democratic primary yet went on to win his party’s nomination and ultimately the presidency. Advocates of the primary (and there are many) chalked this up to Tsongas’s supposed status as a favorite son candidate. A second blemish on New Hampshire’s record appeared in 2000, however, when George W. Bush suffered an eighteen-point loss to John McCain yet recovered to win his party’s nomination and the presidency. Disparagers of New Hampshire’s quadrennial status (and there are many) doubtless took these failures in prediction as more ammunition for their argument that New Hampshire is too small and demographically unrepresentative a state to have so much influence in winnowing out candidates in the presidential nomination process.


Primary Cycle Presidential Primary Clean Slate Primary Voter Core Fundamental 
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  1. 1.
    Nelson W. Polsby, Consequences of Party Reform (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Marty Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller, “Beating Reform: The Resurgence of Parties in Presidential Nominations, 1980 to 2000,” presented at the 2001 meeting of the American Political Science Association.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dante J. Scala 2003

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  • Dante J. Scala

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