The New Hampshire Primary and the American Electoral Process

By Niall A. Palmer | Go to book overview

3
The Nomination Environment

One ought never to multiply devices uselessly, or employ twenty thousand men to do what a hundred picked men could do much better.

-- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract


PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY DEVELOPMENT, 1901-68

The unique contribution of the New Hampshire primary to twentieth-century election politics combines the state's unusual social and political character with a prominent media profile and high degree of accuracy in forecasting outcomes of presidential races. For a clear understanding of its key role in the nomination process, however, New Hampshire must be observed as part of the wider nomination process.

The state's importance to potential presidents has risen since 1916 only because the selection process itself has undergone fundamental change. Primaries have achieved dominance as the most favored method of choosing between candidates. Television has altered the nature of election campaigns and has exerted a profound influence on the strategies of all would-be nominees. Campaign finance reforms have similarly altered the priorities and tactics of candidates. Political parties have undergone revolutions in their structure, their support bases and their leadership selection practices. Some of these alterations took place gradually, almost haphazardly; others came as the result of party-directed reforms. The cumulative effect has been to transform the nomination system from a closed, partisan, elite-driven process to one galvanized by grass-roots activity and media interpretation.

New Hampshire's primary has changed. But the introduction of the presidential preference ballot in 1952 was little more than a response to prevailing trends, while the 1975 first primary law represented a belated recognition of the state's new importance in nomination politics. New Hampshire's rise to political prominence was not self-willed but came as the result of changes to its electoral environment which were beyond its control.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the supremacy of boss politics and the smoke-filled room went virtually unchallenged. Party organizations were tightly constructed and well-marshaled, with political power and patronage vested in party officials from the city machine to the state boss. The selection of

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The New Hampshire Primary and the American Electoral Process
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • 1 - Granite State Watersheds, 1916-1996 1
  • Notes 32
  • 2 - New Hampshire in Profile 37
  • 3 - The Nomination Environment 65
  • Notes 95
  • 4 - Interpretation Games: The News Media in New Hampshire 99
  • Notes 130
  • 5 - The Importance of Being Earliest 135
  • Conclusion - NASS and Beyond 175
  • Notes 180
  • Selected Bibliography 181
  • Index 185
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