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'08 Primaries: N.H. Democrats Make Their Case

In a bid to preserve their first-in-the-nation presidential primary status, New Hampshire Democrats unveiled a proposal this morning that they cast as a compromise solution in the increasingly contentious fight over the 2008 primary calendar.

Under the New Hampshire plan -- unveiled during a press call with state party chairwoman Kathy Sullivan and former state party chair Joe Keefe -- Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their status as the first caucus and primary states in the 2008 nominating process. Two other states would follow at least a week after New Hampshire's primary but before the so-called "window" allowing any state to hold a primary or caucus opens at the beginning of February.

Keefe and Sullivan insisted that their plan would help avoid the primary frontloading that occurred in 2004 -- when 12 states held primaries or caucuses within an eight-day span in early February.

"The frontloading process will hurt the Democratic nominee," argued Sullivan. "We will have a nominee in middle to late January while Republicans are dominating airwaves for weeks or months after that." The two also argued that by allowing two states to follow New Hampshire before the window opens, their proposal addresses concerns the Iowa and New Hampshire are insufficiently diverse (geographically and ethnically) to hold so much influence over the nomination process.

The New Hampshire blueprint comes in response to the seeming consensus growing among members of the Democratic Party's Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling to place two or three caucuses in between Iowa and New Hampshire, an idea strongly favored by western and midwestern Democrats.

Keefe accused the commission of "trying to convert New Hampshire from first in the national primary to the sixth in the nation primary" and promised that should the panel continue down that path New Hampshire Democrats will "resist that by any means necessary."

The New Hampshire proposal comes as the commission's final meeting date -- Dec. 10 in Washington, D.C. -- rapidly approaches.  The plan forwarded by Keefe and Sullivan sets up the potential for a nasty showdown between New Hampshire allies on the committee -- led by former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) -- and the advocates for increased diversity, the most vocal of which are Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Debbie Dingell, wife of longtime Michigan Rep. John Dingell.

Those familiar with the commission's thinking argue that the success or failure of the New Hampshire plan will come down to whether the African American and Hispanic members of the panel believe that adding two states after New Hampshire sufficiently addresses concerns about racial and ethnic diversity.

Republicans avoided these problems by affirming the first-in-the-nation status of Iowa and New Hampshire at their presidential convention last year.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 29, 2005; 2:32 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Comments

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Posted by: John S | August 19, 2006 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Ohio!

Ohio has been the key to the presidential elections for most of the past 100 years. Ohio is also a microcosm in almost all respects of the USA. It is urban, suburban and rural. It has a coastline for maritime trade and it has internal rivers connecting it to the Heartland. It should be the leasoff primary!

SEEMS THAT GIVING INFLUENCE TO THE WINNERS OF SMALL STATE PRIMARIES IN STATES THAT ARE SO DEMOGRAPHICALLY DIFFERENT FROM THE REST OF THE COUNTRY AND MAKES FOR A BAD PRIMARY.

The Democratic leadership ought to seriously consider putting Ohio into the ranks of the nation's first primaries (perhaps first, but no lower than 4th). Momentum out of Iowa and New Hampshire proves so little about a candidate's national appeal, why reward a good organizer in those low population states with so much?

Posted by: GW | April 24, 2006 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Ohio!

Ohio has been the key to the presidential elections for most of the past 100 years. Ohio is also a microcosm in almost all respects of the USA. It is urban, suburban and rural. It has a coastline for maritime trade and it has internal rivers connecting it to the heartlans. It should be the leasoff primary!

SEEMS THAT GIVING INFLUENCE TO THE WINNERS OF SMALL STATE PRIMARIES IN STATES THAT ARE SO DEMOGRAPHICALLY DIFFERENT FROM THE REST OF THE COUNTRY AND MAKES FOR A BAD PRIMARY.

The Democratic leadership ought to seriously consider putting Ohio into the ranks of the nation's first primaries (perhaps first, but no lower than 4th). Momentum out of Iowa and New hampdhire proves so little about a candidate's national appeal, why reward a good organizer in those low population states with so much?

Posted by: GW | April 24, 2006 10:33 PM | Report abuse

I want to start off by thanking the good people of Iowa and New Hampshire for selecting the candidate for me. I know that being the biggest state with the largest population and the greatest diversity would make it difficult for candidates to connect with us. I am resigned to the unfairnes that it is too expensive to try and reach out to the 33 million people in this state. I suppose that is just life and it's not always fair. So my 2 cents is this...quit whining and let some other small states go first. How about Conneticut or Delaware or New Mexico(not small area wise, but population wise)

Posted by: Andy CA | December 10, 2005 9:35 PM | Report abuse

I honestly don't think that the first in the nation status of NH should be touched. NH is a small state. We are an intellectual and independent citizenry who take politics really, really seriously. Where else can politicians roam the state in a few hours and meet so many people? We scrutinize and ask questions and challenge positions. I met John Kerry's whole family and personally talked to both Kerry and Edwards more than once., before I voted for them. We NewHampshirites are willing to make the effort and so are the politicians. Why mess up a good thing?

Posted by: Palms NH | December 1, 2005 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I honestly don't think that the first in the nation status of NH should be touched. NH is a small state. We are an intellectual and independent citizenry who take politics really, really seriously. Where else can politicians roam the state in a few hours and meet so many people? We scrutinize and ask questions and challenge positions. I met John Kerry's whole family and personally talked to both Kerry and Edwards more than once., before I voted for them. We NewHampshirites are willing to make the effort and so are the politicians. Why mess up a good thing?

Posted by: Palms NH | December 1, 2005 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I write from the prospective of one who lived most of her life in a large, multi-racial state...New York. Having moved to New Hampshire and gotten involved in the politics here, I have to say the idea of doing away with this state's First in the Nation status because we are not ratially diverse enough (from whose point of view?) is a poor reason. In the so called racially diverse states, how many are really that interested in politics to join in the debate? Here in New Hampshire, no matter what county or town you are in, people know what is happening politically and are involved in the process. Politicians recognize this and they hone their points of view. I have seen this happen. For New Hampshire, these politicians are not faces but actual people who are expected to answer very astute questions by citizens. Isn't that what politicians are supposed to be able to do? Shouldn't they be responsible to the public? Shouldn't possible presidential candidates be ready to defend their positions? That's what happens here. I don't think it could happen in larger states where fewer people outside the chosen few (think Bush speaking events) are on hand to grill the candidate.

Dorothy Solomon,
Albany

Posted by: Dorothy Solomon | December 1, 2005 11:07 AM | Report abuse

The outcomes of Iowa's caucus and the New Hampshire's primary are not always in agreement, either on the Democratic side or the Republican side.

They perform the beginning of the winnowing of viable candidates. Their voters have served the nation well. Because of their experience, size and feisty questioning, the candidates don't escape scrutiny the way media in larger states(or DC)have allowed Bush to skate away from answering the tough issues. Our task is to weigh their (IA & NH's) results and add our opinions later in election year which may disagree or reinforce their earlier impressions.

They only have a few delegates and the bigger states (NY, PA, TX) can make our own decisions. We are not lemmings.

Plus the fact IA and NH are swing states and both DEMs and REPs must fight for their electoral votes. NH went blue the last time...don't forget that.

Pennsylvania Gal

Posted by: pattid | November 30, 2005 2:25 PM | Report abuse

1st in the nation: The case for electoral integrity

Now is not the time to change New Hampshire's first in the nation status for the Democratic primaries. Philosophical discussions over demographics and "fairness" are irrelevant when taken in context of our current electoral crisis. The most important factor for consideration is the security and integrity of the election.

Today, New Hampshire represents the nation's best hope for secure and trusted elections. While we continue to work on improving New Hampshire's election system, it remains exemplar in more ways than not...
Read the rest of the article here:
http://www.democracyfornewhampshire.com/node/view/1851

Posted by: Nancy | November 29, 2005 11:44 PM | Report abuse

New Hampshire and Iowa do a very good job of representing the demographics and geographical population density of 19th century America. But if our party wants to have a nominee who is competetive in all regions of our 21st century America, our vetting process must reflect that diversity of people, places and issues - all of which are intertwined - not as an after-thought, but as the core of the process. The New Hampshire 'plan' does little to address this and would in effect, maintain the status quo.
We won't be able to rectify the greater problem of front-loading in time for the 2008 contest(though I hope the DNC and RNC will begin to work together towards addressing that as soon as practicable). But in the meantime, we can at least insure that the geographic and racial diversity of our 21st century America is an integral part of the vetting process - not a token gesture after main event - an open primary.
Since there appears to be a consensus on the commission to add at least one Western and one Southern state, I do hope to see some spacing between the caucuses to allow candidates the chance to do some last minute campaigning in each state. I do also hope and expect that the DNC will choose states that are the size of Iowa or smaller - in order to insure that the new pre-window contests are small, retail politics affairs. The process would also benefit if we could implement some of the recommendations of the Campaign Finance Institute, in order to make it easier for candidates to raise the money they need.

Anyways, I've enjoyed reading the comments here on all sides of this discussion.

Posted by: Tom in San Diego | November 29, 2005 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Randy - you are wrong! A perfect example of NH's reading of a candidate is 1992 and Paul Tsongas. He raised less than $3M and won the NH primary, even though his poll numbers were around 5% when he started in 1991. And that 5% was probably from former Mass residents who moved to NH - like I did. Most of the voters, when Tsongas started, gave him NO chance at all - they were all waiting for Mario Cuomo. Tsongas was a a FORMER US Senator, out of office for 8 years, NO base of support, a cancer survivor, and a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts (during the election after Democrats lost with Mike Dukakis). Paul Tsongas had ALL of that against him. Yet, he WON the NH primary with NO money, beating a much better funded Bill Clinton 32 to 21%. No, my friend, NH's voters listened to Tsongas and many read his 90 page "A Call to Economic Arms"... He had few signs, very few commercials and NO establishment support. He won because he had a great message, communicated it to the voters and they believed him to be the most honest candidate. Thats a perfect example of how a small state like NH can make a candidate. Before you say, what else did he win - well he won 10 primaries before running completely out of money. He "made Bill Clinton a better candidate" - those were Clinton's words, not mine.

How do I know all this? I am a former Tsongas Campaign Co-Chair from NH!

Mike

Posted by: Salem Democrats | November 29, 2005 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I think that Randy won makes a mistake by generalizing from the last primary. There have been many times when less well funded and well known candidates have managed to get into the light in NH without spending a lot of money: Gene McArthy, Jimmy Carter off the top of my head. I do not say that NH voters are not more virtuous than others, but they do use the opportunity of a relatively small population to get in the Candidates faces and question them closely.

The abrupt swing for Kerry came because there was not candidate with a solid base of support. Dean, Edwards and Kerry all were a mile wide and an inch deep. Too many people were worried about "electability" so the switches were quick and sudden. I think that says more about the candidates and the party philosophy of cutting to the middle than about the voters.

The process should start in the small states to winnow out the field and then build to the big states. The problem is the process gets squewed because the media and too many party people are quick to declare a winner, or momentum after Iowa and NH.

Posted by: mannykrasner | November 29, 2005 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, NH voters take their jobs so seriously that John Kerry's poll numbers rose by 30 points in the course of one week after Iowa!!! WTF?!

That's after a year of intense town-by-town campaigning by all the candidates. Admit it, New Hampshire voters don't take the process any more or less seriously than voters in other states would if they were courted as intensively as NH voters are.

And who ever thinks that campaigning in New Hampshire somehow makes the process more accessible to poorly funded candidates, please explain to me then the fact that the two candidates who finished one-two in NH were the two who spent the most??? NH's main tv market is Boston, the 5th most expensive in the whole country!

Face it, the candidates would be raising and spending just as much money to get elected if the primary process started elsewhere and the viability of underfunded candidates wouldn't be affected one bit.

Posted by: randy won | November 29, 2005 7:56 PM | Report abuse

As I was saying:
Only in New Hampshire can a candidate with no money actually reach the voters with his or her message. NH voters take primaries very seriously, they listen and they vote as over 80% of them did in 2004.Inserting more caucuses before the first primary would make the problem of frontloading worse rather than better. Candidates would have to choose one or two caucus state to campaign in; they would not be able to afford to campaign in all. Caucuses are less democratic than primaries, allowing small groups of insiders to make the decision instead of the voters of a state. The New Hampshire plan is a good compromise.

Posted by: Sparky | November 29, 2005 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Very well said, Carol.

Posted by: Mike 234 | November 29, 2005 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Why it's important to preserve New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary:

Posted by: Sparky | November 29, 2005 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I have lived in 7 states in different areas of the country, so I have seen a lot of diversity. I moved back to NH in time to work for a candidate in the 2004 primary. I was able to meet so many people from different social and economic backgrounds, and I was impressed by how informed they all were. Just ask any of the candidates who had to face them! NH people take the job of "interviewing" the candidates very seriously, and they ask the questions that the rest of America wants answered. In a living room or a small function hall, the candidate can't hide behind handlers, and everyone gets to ask questions. NH should keep their first place position in the primary not because they want to be first, but because they excel in that position! The citizens believe it's their civic duty to learn all they can about each candidate, and they have earned that first in the nation status.

Posted by: Carol Shea-Porter | November 29, 2005 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Diversity? What about unity? To unite our country we will need to put aside expensive campaign ads and return once again to grassroots politics. I have lived in New Hampshire all of my life and say most emphatically that the people of this state are neither bigoted nor closed minded. They represent this country proudly. Why are we still under the impression that the color of one's skin will determine who one votes for?

Posted by: Rebecca Ainscow | November 29, 2005 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Let New Hampshire be New Hampshire. I have no problem whatsoever with these level-headed New Englanders meeting the candidates up close and personal and giving the rest of us their best assessment via the primary results. Does anybody know of an instance where it could be argued that the ultimate result would've been different if New Hampshire hadn't gone first? Just curious.

Posted by: Mike 234 | November 29, 2005 6:09 PM | Report abuse

As a Democratic Town Chair, and an local elected official, I have to say that our worst problem is keeping Democrats active and recruiting others in this state which is predominantly undeclared. If we are to make any progress to keep this state blue, we don't need a whole bunch of caucuses before us. We have this wonderful tradition which keeps us excited and motivated, I was a Deaniac in 2004 and the excitement of the primary was enormous.
Yes, we need to get more diversity, but front loading the whole thing will only make the process geographically more un-diverse.

Posted by: Lucy Edwards | November 29, 2005 5:59 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't have to be New Hampshire, but a state like ours needs to have the first primary. Politics is really retail up here. We do get to see the hopefuls in small group settings, to ask them questions and look them in the eye close up.

As to our demographics, while we only have a bit over 1 million the distribution between urban, suburban and rural population is pretty close to most of the other states. We do have a smaller percentage of blacks and hispanics, but most of the ones we do have vote Democratic. Our hispanic population is perhaps the fastest growing segment in NH.

Candidates can easily get from one end of the state to the other within a day, and they often do, making multiple stops along the way. That would be hard to do in, say Wyoming or Montana.

And finally, we are used to it. People do turn out to see the candidates, and our infrastructure is set for it (hotels, a first class airport, good roads, etc.)

Posted by: Graham Smith | November 29, 2005 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I am from Michigan and I intend to let Sen Levin and Mrs Dingell know that I want THEM to support the NH plan. I think it makes sense and by allowing 2 diverse states to join the early primary season - it provides balance. Candidates normally get better at campaigning the longer they are on the stump. Going to states like Iowa and NH allows less-well-funded candidates to reach lots of voters and get their meessage out. You cannot do that in NY or California or Texas or any place that is as expensive as those large states are. NH and Iowa are important to the process in that regard. Otherwise you only have the RICHEST nominee, rather than the BEST. Lets make this compromise and get on with winning the White House in 2008!

Posted by: Motor City Mike | November 29, 2005 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I have lived in many other states before moving to NH in 1975. One of the reasons that NH has remained the lead-off state since the 1950's despite many attacks even harsher than the current attacks is that money is not as important. There is no way that a candidate without huge sums of money could be heard in most other states. Bill Clinton could come and as an unknown, actually make a dent. It is true that Paul Tsongas won that primary but I worked for Bill Clinton because of his health care stance and NH was very important to him moving forward.
If you want just money and ad space to determine the Democratic candidate then move it from NH. If you want meetings in town halls and homes across a small state to allow good ideas to surface then keep it in NH.
I am a Democratic town chair and I will fight to keep NH first in the nation because there is not a better alternative.

Posted by: Chris in NH | November 29, 2005 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Frontloading ahead of New Hampshire and Iowa is a bad idea.
New Hampshire was the only state to go from red to blue and understands primaries. Frontloading ahead of New Hampshire makes the process less diverse and doesn't really accomplish the professed goals.
Besides, a point that might not be made is that New Hampshire is changing demographically, especially along the southern tier and in the bigger cities.
New Hampshire's proposed compromise makes sense.

Posted by: Paul | November 29, 2005 5:20 PM | Report abuse

More diverse states are needed, and so is an end to frontloading. It sounds like the NH plan does both. If the DNC puts four diverse states together on one day, Iowa will get a lot of attention, and maybe NH will get a lot of attention, but each of the four caucus will just get a little attention. What is the point with that?

Posted by: asbury | November 29, 2005 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I think more deverse states are definently needed before NH and IA. Even if you add states behind them it will not help choose the nominee. The person who wins both of them will have enough momentum to win the whole things (see the disaster which was kerry). Places like NC, SC, VA or any midwestern states should be placed in front to ensure a more diverse group of issues are heard because ethanol wouldn't be a issue at all if those two states weren't at the front of the line.

Posted by: Open It Up | November 29, 2005 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Oh no, not NH Democrats! I'm so scared!

I love New Hampshire but their proposal to set the Democratic calendar has as much a 10 year-old boy calling "shotgun" on a trip to the mall with his Mom and his 8 year-old brother.

Propping up a bad system out of tradition and local economic interest leads to ridiculous systems like the BCS in College Football. Primaries are like playoffs - go where the voters are and let the best candidate win. Where the voters aren't is in New Hampshire. They get their say and no more. The Senate exists to give states an equal voice, not the primary calander. NH gets two Senators, the same as California, and they still want more? Please.

Putting western states in the mix early makes complete sense for everyone other than the Concord Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by: joejoejoe | November 29, 2005 3:59 PM | Report abuse


this isn't about money. more money was spent in NH in the 2002 midterm elections than the 2004 presidential primary.

this is about real people having a role in choosing out leaders.

the IA caucuses and NH primary are far from perfect. But they are last place in modern democracy that regular people can show up and grill a presidential candidate with question after question in a completely unscripted environment. Anyone can and does do it. Over 80% of all democrats showed up to vote in the 04 primary.

This makes our candidates into better general election candidates, and better leaders, and better presidents.

This has been going on for 80 years. The reason NH has the first primary is because they were the first state to actually hold primaries open to everyone (while all the other states were choosing candidates in smoke filled backrooms).

It would be a collassal mistake to extinguish this invaluable piece of our democracy.

Can we tweak the calendar to make it better? sure. But you don't risk losing something so important. it's just crazy.

Posted by: granitestater | November 29, 2005 3:56 PM | Report abuse

It is time to add two more diverse states to the front of the primary season. There are of course repercussions in that whereas now you need money for two fights candidates will need enough money for viabilty in four states- maybe if the democratic party just agreed to pay NH and Iowa for the financial losses they will encounter by having all the reporters having to split their time in four states instead of two we could end this debate- and get on with it

Posted by: peter dc | November 29, 2005 3:21 PM | Report abuse


yah, the current system sucks. glad NH has accepted that we need more diverse states.

but what the comission seems headed towards would suck worse. much worse. caucuses are low turnout, establishment-run affairs. that's the last thing our party needs.

frankly, I dont see whats wrong with the nh compromise -- ia, nh, and two diverse states. I mean, it's not like diverse states are the ONLY voice in our party that deserve to be heard. This would pump up their influence without junking NH entirely.

Posted by: fourthway | November 29, 2005 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Since this column is called "The Fix", why not recognize what the Republicans are really trying to do: just declare they have permanent power, call off elections and be done with all unpleasantries!

Posted by: muleman | November 29, 2005 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Ya have to admit, the current primary system gives off a strong whiff of "back-of-the-bus"-ism. Especially given how much elected Democrats nationally depend on minority voters to win pretty much anything at all.

Posted by: randy won | November 29, 2005 3:07 PM | Report abuse

this plan is far from perfect, but it is good to see NH is willing to come to the table in good faith and try to work towards a solution. Going from two to four early states would be a big concession on their part. Why can't the other side make a concession like that and we can be done with this whole thing?

plus, it's light-years better than deciding the entire calendar based on a week's worth of special interest-controlled caucuses. if that happens, you might as well just choose the nominee in some backroom inside the beltway

Posted by: hopeagain | November 29, 2005 2:44 PM | Report abuse

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