3:45pm

Sun January 8, 2012
Election 2012

The New Hampshire Primary: Boost Or Bust

Originally published on Sun January 8, 2012 4:06 pm

New Hampshire voters could make Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's nomination a near-certainty on Tuesday, when the state holds the first primary of the 2012 election.

Every presidential candidate in modern history who has won both Iowa and New Hampshire has gone on to win the party's nomination. (Romney narrowly won the Iowa caucuses last week). Since 1920, New Hampshire has been the first state to hold a presidential primary, and Granite State voters guard that status fiercely.

The state's primary has become the birthplace, and sometimes graveyard, for presidential hopefuls, a phenomenon often dubbed the "New Hampshire effect."

In 1996, many Republicans blamed Pat Buchanan for dividing the party when he won the New Hampshire primary. That year, Bob Dole was the establishment candidate; yet Buchanan mounted an insurgent campaign to take the victory there.

Buchanan tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that he attributes the unexpected win to an endorsement from the New Hampshire Union-Leader newspaper, and what he calls a "Catholic conservative, traditionalist, economic populist message," that fit the times.

Insurgent candidates are often successful in New Hampshire, Buchanan says, because the people there are receptive to candidates who challenge an establishment. Buchanan says he was the non-establishment candidate.

"New Hampshire has a great disposition, a great willingness, to unhorse the mighty," Buchanan says. "I think that's one of the things that election was all about."

New Hampshire's role in determining the GOP's nominee in the 2012 election will be important, Buchanan says. If Romney wins New Hampshire, Buchanan says the former Massachusetts governor has the legs to go the distance and become the Republican presidential nominee.

But if that happens, and Romney is the GOP nominee, Buchanan says it will be a real test of his capacity as a diplomat and a politician.

"The Republican Party is a divided party in many ways," he says. "Mitt and his people will have to go down and unite this party around the proposition that all of us may disagree on some issues, but we all agree on the proposition that the country can't take four more years of Barack Obama."

Buchanan disagrees with the criticism that it isn't fair the 42nd most populous state in the U.S. has such a large hand in deciding such an important issue.

"The fact that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are the first three is a good thing; it is a healthy thing," Buchanan says. "Because it does winnow the field and you do see if some of these front-runners really do have a glass jaw and they can't go the distance."

Although he eventually lost the nomination to Dole, Buchanan, author of Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?, says he's in favor of maintaining New Hampshire as the first primary in the nation.

The Senator From Colorado

A month ago, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was hardly considered competition in the Republican primaries. But when he nearly defeated front-runner Romney in the Iowa caucuses last week, everything changed. The case of a presidential hopeful pulling ahead after Iowa isn't a first. In fact, something similar happened in 1984.

Just before the Iowa caucuses that year, Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado wasn't getting much love from the media or the Democratic Party establishment. But after he made a strong showing in the state, the cameras started to follow him.

Just a month or so before the New Hampshire primary of 1984, Hart was polling 2 percent nationally and 5 percent in New Hampshire, far behind the presumed front-runner, Walter Mondale.

Hart took advantage of New Hampshire's tradition of bucking trends and going for insurgents, so he started campaigning on that theme. It worked; Hart won the primary by 10 percentage points.

Hart, now a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, tells NPR's Raz that at the time there was a sense, particularly from younger Democrats, that the party had begin to stagnate.

"I felt that there was a generational opportunity there," Hart says. "And I felt that if I could get to New Hampshire that I had a very good chance of demonstrating that there was a base ... for a new generation of leadership."

The strong Iowa showing, the increased media attention and the strong victory in New Hampshire helped Hart carry 25 states in the primaries and go to the 1984 Democratic National Convention with 1,200 delegates. It wasn't enough, however, and Mondale became the Democratic nominee for president, ultimately losing to the incumbent, President Reagan.

Looking back, Hart says the 1984 race and his contribution was a defining moment for many, including him.

"It is one of those events that almost never reoccur in your lifetime, and you treasure it and you treasure the relationships that shared that experience with you," he says. "It was very hard work, but we had a lot of fun."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

GUY RAZ, HOST:

Now, many Republicans blamed Patrick Buchanan for dividing the party in 1996. That year, Bob Dole was the establishment candidate, and yet Pat Buchanan mounted an insurgent campaign in New Hampshire and he won. This past week, he told us the story of how he did it.

Describe for us the moment that you found out you had actually won the New Hampshire primary in 1996.

PAT BUCHANAN: I was up in a room at the Manchester, that hotel - I guess it's the Radisson now - with many members of my family, and I saw CNN announced Pat Buchanan the winner of the New Hampshire primary.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States, Pat Buchanan.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

RAZ: In terms of money, in terms of establishment backing, you should not have won that election.

BUCHANAN: Well, it was a very good victory. We had a lot of things going for us. We had the Manchester Union Leader and we had a Catholic conservative traditionalist economic populist message, which really sort of fit the times.

Last year's trade deficit cost us another four million lost American jobs. Our middle class is falling behind. I will rewrite these unfair trade deals that destroy our jobs. As president, I will make the United States again the mightiest manufacturing power on Earth.

RAZ: What is it about New Hampshire and insurgent candidates? Why are they successful there?

BUCHANAN: I think the people of New Hampshire are very receptive to candidates who challenge an establishment. And I remember one story - I was up in Laconia and a subway shop owner walked over to me about 100 yards from where I was, said, let me tell you a story, Pat. I've put an ad in the paper for a delivery guy, part-time, no benefits, and I got 250 applications. In one of them, a fellow drove all the way up from Nashua, 100 miles away.

And you had that sense, I think, when I was up there that I was clearly the nonestablishment candidate and Bob Dole was the establishment candidate. And New Hampshire has a great disposition, a great willingness, to unhorse the mighty. And I think that's one of the things that election was all about.

RAZ: You came out and you said famously the peasants have their pitchforks, and that became your kind of catchphrase.

BUCHANAN: All the peasants are coming with pitchforks after him.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: In '96, I also said - when I got there, I said listen...

Do not wait for orders from headquarters. Mount up everybody and ride to the sound of the gun.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BUCHANAN: Because the establishment is coming for us. And that was exactly true. I mean, the attacks after we won New Hampshire with the possibility that we could capture the nomination and defeat Dole, I think, set Washington almost wild in terms of its attacks. Senators were saying we have only one objective, and that's to stop Pat Buchanan.

RAZ: What do you think it was that gave you the edge in '96?

BUCHANAN: I had been a loyal soldier to the conservative movement. I'd been a Goldwater conservative. I'd worked for Nixon, written speeches for Agnew, worked for Ronald Reagan. I was the only one campaigning against global free trade because it was destroying the factories of New Hampshire and they were losing their jobs and they could see that.

I was the only one that said we're going to have to downsize these foreign commitments and stay out of these foreign wars and start building up our own country. So we had a different agenda than all the other candidates.

RAZ: Pat Buchanan, as you know, former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu is famous for saying people in Iowa pick corn and people in New Hampshire pick presidents. How pivotal do you think the New Hampshire primary will be this year in determining who the GOP nominee is?

BUCHANAN: I think it's going to be very important. Unless Romney collapses over the next five or six days, I think if he wins New Hampshire, he is one of the finalists then for sure. I think he's got the legs to go the distance.

RAZ: Yesterday on the program, we talked about some of the challenges that conservatives face right now in settling on a candidate. Say, Mitt Romney does become the nominee, how would you feel about that?

BUCHANAN: Well, if Mitt Romney becomes the nominee, it will be - it's going to be a real test of his capacities as a diplomat and a small pea politician, if you will, because the Republican Party is a divided party in many ways. You've got the Ron Paul contingent, which is libertarian, anti-war. He wants to bring the troops home.

But you've also got the evangelical Christians. One of them, of course, said he could, under no circumstances, support Romney, and he has a mega-church of 10,000 people. I think Mitt and his people are going to have to go down and unite this party around the proposition that all of us may disagree on some issues, but we all agree on the proposition that the country can't take four more years of Barack Obama. And if we divide, we get nothing. But it's going to be up to Governor Romney, if he is the nominee, to accomplish that.

RAZ: Pat Buchanan, do you become a bit nostalgic every four years around the time of the New Hampshire primary?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: Yes. Yes, I do. I mean, it brings back a lot of fond memories, especially the '96 primary up there in New Hampshire. And Iowa did too. I've driven back and forth across that state many, many, many times.

RAZ: Do you think Bob Dole ever forgave you for that victory?

BUCHANAN: There's no question about it that these elections like this tend to put an end to friendships because you're in something like a championship fight. So there's no question about it that the relationship between Senator Dole and Pat Buchanan is not what it was before 1996.

RAZ: And what about with George H. W. Bush?

BUCHANAN: Well, we were good friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: I've not been invited to the library.

RAZ: I got you. Right. You know, a lot of people look at New Hampshire around the country and they say this is the 42nd most populous state, just about 1.3 million people live in this state. That is so important in deciding, you know, a major issue for the rest of the country. Is it fair?

BUCHANAN: Yes, I think it is for this reason. Let's say you took the first primary in New York or California. Given the enormous size of those states and given the amount of resources you need to run in those states - I mean, $10 million is nothing in California - what you would get in the primaries if they began there is simply a ratification of the Gallup poll. So I think the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina are the first three is a good thing.

It is a healthy thing, because it does winnow the field and you do see if some of these front-runners really have a glass jaw and they can't go the distance. So I, you know, I'm very much in favor of maintaining New Hampshire as the first primary in the nation.

RAZ: That's Pat Buchanan, a three-time presidential candidate who won the Republican primary in New Hampshire in 1996. His latest book is called "Suicide of a Super Power." He's also a commentator on MSNBC. Pat Buchanan, thanks so much.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

RAZ: Coming up, more New Hampshire nostalgia. In 1984, the road to the nomination seemed freshly paved for Democrat Gary Hart. He also won in New Hampshire against the odds. That's in a moment on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Before the break, we heard from Pat Buchanan on his unlikely victory in New Hampshire in 1996. Now to another New Hampshire victory, this one in 1984. Just before the Iowa caucuses that year, Gary Hart wasn't getting much love from the media or the Democratic Party establishment. But after he made a strong showing in the state, the cameras started to follow him, a bit like Rick Santorum today.

Just a month or so before the New Hampshire primary of 1984, Gary Hart was polling 2 percent nationally and 5 percent in New Hampshire, far behind the presumed front-runner Walter Mondale. So Gary Hart took advantage of New Hampshire's tradition of bucking trends and going for insurgents. And he started campaigning on that theme.

GARY HART: This election is a choice between the past and the future, between special interests and new directions, between bosses and a new generation of leadership. It's your choice.

RAZ: Gary Hart is now a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, but once upon a time, he was the great hope for the Democratic Party. And in 1984, his victory in New Hampshire almost upended the candidacy of Walter Mondale.

HART: There was a sense on the part of particularly younger Democrats that the party had become the stagnate. It was always harkened back to its Rooseveltian past. And so I felt that there was a generational opportunity there and felt that I - if I could get to New Hampshire that I had a very good chance of demonstrating that there was a base there as well as around the country for a new generation of leadership.

RAZ: Did you almost consciously or maybe unconsciously contrast yourself to Walter Mondale in the sense that, you know, you were young, you kind of had longish hair, your staff called you Gary, you had these sort of modish suits, you were a Westerner? I mean, did you think that that was going to sort of show the voters there was a stark difference between the two of you?

HART: Well, first of all, my wife would get a laugh about the modish suits. There were two of them and they weren't very modish.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HART: In any case, no, it was a substantive difference. I had, in the '70s, in the Senate begun to talk about the impact of two revolutions: globalization and the information revolution and how we had to get ready for those to become more competitive and to use our technological advantage to transition from an industrial to a technology-based economy. And the traditional elements of the party didn't take it very seriously. That was the real contrast.

RAZ: Talk about the night that you won. I mean, you didn't just win it. You won it big, like 10 percentage points.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Gary, Gary, Gary.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The sounds of victory. Supporters of Colorado Senator Gary Hart in Manchester, New Hampshire, last night.

HART: Many people thought, including the front-runner, that this campaign would be over tonight. This campaign just begins tonight.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

RAZ: Were you surprised?

HART: I was surprised by the margin. After I ran a somewhat distant second in Iowa with almost no money, the press - a bit like Senator Santorum's experiencing now but even more so - began to see a race shaping up much, much differently than they had forecast. And when we landed the next day in New Hampshire, there were crowds on the street, a press entourage that tripled or quadrupled, and so there was this electricity in the air. And I knew I had a chance. I didn't see the landslide coming.

RAZ: So what happened?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HART: Well, it didn't fall apart. As I said earlier, we carried 25 states and went to the convention with 12 over 1,200 delegates. But every one of the so-called superdelegates voted for Vice President Mondale, even though on the eve of the convention in San Francisco, the polls showed that I ran much more strongly against President Reagan than Vice President Mondale did.

RAZ: There was a point in the campaign - because you refrained from attacking Walter Mondale. But as you became a threat to him, his campaign felt it had to go after you. At a certain point, he says, well, look at Senator Hart. You know, where is the beef?

WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of the that ad, where's the beef, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: This is, of course, you know, a reference to the famous Wendy's hamburger commercial from that time. Do you think that damaged you?

HART: It became a kind of shorthand for those, I think, in the media and critics and analysts to say Hart's not going to sweep this thing. But the notion that somehow where's the beef destroyed my campaign was just nonsense.

RAZ: Hmm. When New Hampshire rolls around every four years, do you get a sense of nostalgia?

HART: Let's see. That was such a defining moment for many of us that I think it is one of those events that almost never reoccurs in your lifetime and you treasure it and you treasure the relationships that shared that experience with you. And so I think in that sense, sure. It was very hard work, but we had an awful lot of fun.

RAZ: That's former Senator Gary Hart. He won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire in 1984, beating the eventual nominee Walter Mondale by 10 percentage points. He spoke to us from Denver. Senator Hart, thank you so much.

HART: It's my great pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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