The students at Saint Anselm College have a unique opportunity to experience the New Hampshire presidential primary every four years. The campus is host to debates, candidates, and national news crews. New Hampshire is the first primary to kick off the race to the White House, following the Iowa caucus that comes before it. It is noted that NH has unique citizens who are consistently very active in voting. It is even considered by political pundits that the citizens of NH can shape the future of the primaries based on their picks for president.
Scott Conroy, a former reporter for the Huffington Post who covered the New Hampshire primary during the 2008 and 2012 elections, recently authored a book, Vote First or Die, on the uniqueness of the NH primary.
On April 24th, Scott Conroy visited the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to lecture on his recent book. “I’ve been working on this book for over three years now, and looking back, the 2016 campaign feels like 100 years from… the state of our politics has changed an incredible amount,” said Conroy, “It’s a first person narrative account of just being in NH, taking in the sights and sounds, and meeting all the people along the way that make the NH primary what it is.”
Conroy made clear that his book was not a text-book style about the NH primary. Rather it was an account what it is like to be present in NH for the peak of the primary season. There are also many first-hand stories of the NH primary that go back to the 70’s and 80’s.
In 2016, Conroy noted that reporters and journalists could sense there was something very different going on during this primary season in NH. However, this took some time to become a reality for the nation as a whole. “The rest of the country was very behind, even after Bernie and Trump won here. For a long time the narrative didn’t fully coalesce around the idea that this was a very unusual election, and the grassroots of both parties were rising up in a way that they hadn’t in quite some time,” said Conroy, “The voters of NH were trying to send a very clear message, and ultimately that message was received.”
Scott Conroy also emphasized how NH may be under attack in the future, near or far, for its place in the order of state primaries. “There is valid criticism that states like Arizona, or Oregon for example, don’t get the same privilege,” said Conroy.
There could be some alternatives to a NH first primary process. The first would be a national, all at once, primary election. However, Conroy also noted that the influence of money in politics would become a serious issue. Also, it would give the “little guy” no chance to compete on the national stage against candidates backed by large amounts of money.
The other alternatives would be a regional primary system and a rotating state primary system. For a regional primary system, it would once again give the little guy no chance and make campaigning on the ground very challenging for the candidates. Having a rotating state primary system would be difficult to shift the level of civil discourse from state to state.
In the future, Conroy believes that NH will have the biggest challenges it has ever had going into the 2020 election, particularly in regard to the party. “The Democratic Party has a very diverse electorate; it will be very hard to justify having the first primary in a state that is 93-94% white. NH has come under challenges to its status every four year,” said Conroy.
While the future of NH’s primary could be unclear in the upcoming years, NH currently has a unique seat at the front of the national stage every four years will forever remain an important part in the history of the Granite State.