vision 2020

New Hampshire Can Be Upsetting

HRC looked doomed in 2008 until a surprise New Hampshire win put her back in the race with Barack Obama. Photo: Michael Appleton/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

As votes roll in from the New Hampshire Democratic primary Tuesday night, those who think they know what will happen because they’ve consulted polls might want to be cautious. The state is famous for surprising pundits and front-runners, to the point where its voters take a perverse pride in doing so. The state is particularly prone to a “correction” of Iowa caucus winners. Among Democrats, Iowa winners Walter Mondale in 1984, Dick Gephardt in 1988, Tom Harkin in 1992, Barack Obama in 2008, and Hillary Clinton in 2016 all lost New Hampshire. The same is true of Iowa Republican winners George H.W. Bush in 1980, Bob Dole in 1988 and in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000, Mike Huckabee in 2008, Rick Santorum in 2012, and Ted Cruz in 2016.

Some New Hampshire results have totally flipped national races, at least temporarily. Bush in 2000 was supported by virtually the entire conservative movement, Republican governors, and the corporate K Street types. John McCain’s win over him in New Hampshire sent the entire Republican Establishment into a panic until they righted the ship with W.’s win in South Carolina after a negative campaign renowned for its savagery. Similarly after a big win in Iowa in 2008 Barack Obama looked primed to nail down the nomination quickly. Clinton’s win turned his cakewalk into a painful slog through months of primaries.

Sometimes New Hampshire has even derailed candidates who won in the Granite State — but by disappointing margins. This famously happened to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 (Eugene McCarthy’s strong second-place finish in New Hampshire led LBJ to drop out of the race before the next primary), and four years later to 1972 Democratic front-runner Ed Muskie (from next-door Maine, and thus expected to wallop George McGovern — but didn’t). On at least one occasion, New Hampshire humiliated more than one candidate: In the 1964 GOP primary, national leaders Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater both got stomped by a write-in campaign for then–Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge (Goldwater eventually won the nomination after a long battle).

So don’t be surprised if New Hampshire’s vote is surprising.

New Hampshire Can Be Upsetting