O P I N I O N
Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.
Recently, news outlets and pundits have commented on Nevada’s push to challenge New Hampshire’s First in the Nation status by introducing a new bill changing their presidential nomination process from a caucus to a primary and then modifying the date of that new primary.
While the proposed legislation might portend future attempts by Nevada to supplant New Hampshire’s status, the actual legislation in its current form does not.
The Nevada legislation, if passed, would put the date of Nevada’s primary on the second to last Tuesday in January, with early voting beginning ten days before the primary. Nevada could also move its Presidential Primary date to as early as January 2 if any other state in the western United States decides to put its presidential primary date before Nevada.
Under New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated 653:9, New Hampshire’s Presidential Primary comes on the second Tuesday in march or seven days before any other “similar” election. So, assuming that New Hampshire law does not change, the Nevada bill becomes law and no other states follow Nevada’s lead, New Hampshire’s Presidential Primary date in 2024 will either January 16 or January 6 depending on whether early voting is considered to be similar.
So, anyone saying that Nevada is going first in 2024 is inaccurate, but the question remains whether Nevada (or any other state) should go first. With Iowa’s caucus uncertain to precede New Hampshire in 2024, the Granite State will be under the microscope as to why it should keep its status, New Hampshire state law notwithstanding.
While opponents of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary discuss demographics, they generally fail to take into account the three reasons why the First in the Nation tradition has endured here.
First, New Hampshire is a small state both in terms of land area and population and thus campaigning is easier here. The Boston media market reaches almost all of New Hampshire and approximately two-thirds of the state’s population is within a 90-minute drive of the Massachusetts border. Indeed, the entire state can be reached by car within four hours.
Less ground to cover and fewer voters to reach out to means less money that needs to be spent, allowing candidates that might not have unlimited resources but solid organization and a good message to find success here.
Second, candidates from either major party can theoretically win almost any state or federal race in New Hampshire and there’s a broad scope of opinions here. True, it’s next to impossible for a candidate for the New Hampshire House of Representatives to break through if they’re a Republican in say, Durham or a Democrat in say, Alton; however, we saw in 2020 that Republicans and Democrats claimed wins here on Election Day, and it isn’t inconceivable that the things won by either major party could flip to the other given recent history.
Just about any part of the political spectrum can be found in New Hampshire depending on where you look, allowing for a broader swath of candidates that might be found in states where one-party rule has become the norm.
Finally, New Hampshire residents are engaged in politics at the personal level. Each spring in most of New Hampshire’s towns, it isn’t elected officials that make the final decision on things like annual budgets or capital spending or a variety of resolutions, it’s the people.
If Congress had the same level of representation we have in Concord, there would be approximately 96,000 Congressmen.
So, it’s easy to understand why we expect anyone that wants to run for any office, leader of the free world included, to come up to us face to face and explain why they deserve the job. Being an elected official is a job that is not a stratified out-of-reach thing here.
Ultimately, the true threat to New Hampshire’s First in the Nation status doesn’t come from other states or the national party committees threatening to withhold delegates from the national conventions (New Hampshire doesn’t have enough delegates to impact that specifically anyway), or even other people from outside New Hampshire who just don’t seem to like us for some reason.
No, the main threat is New Hampshire losing one of those three reasons why the First in the Nation Primary matters. Other states have one or two of those key ingredients, but nobody else has all three.
Granted, we’re probably never a large state, so we’ll always have that, but if voters don’t take their responsibilities seriously and candidates feel as though they can ignore talking with voters one-on-one, then it would be time to worry.