New Hampshire In Jeopardy Of Losing “First-In-The-Nation” Presidential Primaries

New Hampshire's century-old tradition may come to an end in 2028

Christian Lee collaborated with this report.

New Hampshire held its first “First-in-the-Nation” presidential primary on March 9, 1920. The 104-year tradition continued on January 23, 2024, despite the Democratic National Committee’s efforts to end it.

New Hampshire is one of the thirteen original American colonies and among the smallest states in the country. The state is ranked the 42nd largest populated state according to Data Commons, but every four years, millions of voters from across the country focus their attention on the Granite State as it holds the first presidential primaries.

For more than a century, the presidential election season has opened in New Hampshire, drawing big names and White House hopefuls from every corner of the United States. The tradition had such an impact on residents and the state that, in 1975, the state government passed a law declaring it shall hold the first-in-the-nation primary at least a week before other states.

The presidential primaries in New Hampshire draw tourists every four years. To some residents, the event gives New Hampshire the recognition it deserves.

On Saturday, Nikki Haley held a meet and greet at the Keene Country Club in Keene, NH. At the event, Andrew Parsley, a registered voter and a home healthcare worker, spoke about what it meant for New Hampshire to kick off the presidential election cycle.

“I feel proud to live in New Hampshire because of that,” Parsley said. “There is not much that happens in New Hampshire. And I think it gets recognized more in the country [because of the primaries].”

Earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee announced South Carolina would hold the party’s first primary, usurping the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Presidential Primary. President Joe Biden urged the committee to do so in December 2022 after his lackluster performance in the 2020 New Hampshire primary, where he finished in fifth place, according to The New York Times

Biden hoped to have South Carolina lead the nation’s presidential primary because New Hampshire lacks ethnic diversity. Of the 1.4 million New Hampshire residents, more than 92.6% are white, according to the Census data from 2023.  The same data claims 88.8% are “white alone, not Hispanic or Latino.” The state’s remaining 11.2% are considered voters of color.

To Biden’s point, he soared into first place at the South Carolina Presidential Primaries less than a month later, where the percentage of voters of color is nearly three times that of New Hampshire. South Carolina’s 2023 Census data estimates a total population of 5,373,555, with nearly 64% identifying as only white.

Although New Hampshire is not ethnically diverse, it does have a larger presence of independent voters when compared to South Carolina. Only 10.4% of the 3.4 million registered voters in South Carolina have registered as independents. The Independent Voter Projects says 44.98% of the Palmetto State voter base belongs to the Democratic Party, and 44.62% go to the Republican Party. 

In New Hampshire, independent voters have the highest registered party affiliation with 39.9%.

Colleen Guzman, a New Hampshire resident for 36 years, believes New Hampshire’s diversity in political ideologies should play a bigger factor than race.

“It may not be diverse, but there are a lot of people who I talk to that don’t look like me that have a lot of the same opinions as myself,” Guzman said.

Guzman is far from the only resident to feel this way. Craig Campbell attended a Nikki Haley rally Sunday morning at the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Hood Derry, NH. The software engineer and small copywriter business owner has spent 16 years in New Hampshire and hopes the state continues to have the first presidential primaries.

“One thing that’s great about New Hampshire is that it is truly representative of a lot of different ideals,” Campbell said.

New Hampshire has been able to lure big-name presidential candidates in years past, but Biden’s absence was felt this time around. Residents have taken an issue with the way the Democratic National Committee approached their presidential primaries, especially since former President Donald J. Trump made an appearance Saturday night, hosting a rally at the Southern New Hampshire University Arena.

Raymond Guzman, Colleen’s husband and a software engineer for Oracle, feels it was “messy” for the DNC to skip over New Hampshire, essentially, throwing the state’s voters out of their groove.

“What [they] are doing, [saying] South Carolina is first and Republicans saying New Hampshire first, totally screws everything up,” Raymond said. “The [DNC] screwed New Hampshire, and they may be sorry for that at some point.”

Like many, George Fullerton wants to see more leadership and a united front from the Democratic Party. He calls for the New Hampshire and the Democratic National Committee to make a consensus decision for the next election cycle in 2028.

During Dean Phillips’ Q&A at The Brothers’ Cortado on Friday, Fullerton said, “I’d like to see it in New Hampshire, but not the way it was done [by the] Democratic National Committee.

“It needs to be done with legislation that’s passed at the congressional level…  rather than having this half-hazard and every state trying to outdo the other one. It just would be better to have a system that is better understood and fairer all the way around.”

Dean Phillips pitches presidency to standing-room crowd during Q&A Friday evening at The Brothers’ Cortado.

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