New Hampshire

Could NH Primary Lose Its First-in-the-Nation Status? It's in Danger, Experts Say

While Democrats in Nevada and South Carolina push to oust the Granite State, Republican presidential hopefuls are already making appearances in New Hampshire

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Political consultant Scott Spradling has heard New Hampshire’s “first in the nation” status debated for decades, with critics saying the disproportionately white, college educated, affluent electorate does not reflect the diversity of the country.

“And therefore, we need to have a conversation about having other people go first,” Spradling said.

Though the next presidential primary is still three years away, Nevada lawmakers have already filed a bill to go first, and party leaders in South Carolina are pushing for it as well. 

“The first-in-the-nation primary is in more danger than it’s been in at least 20 years,” The New Hampshire Journal’s Michael Graham said.

Graham believes that's not because of the politics of the state but because of the demographics, he said. “The Democratic Party is very focused at the policy level and at the political level on equity, social justice, questions about race, etc.”

For the second presidential election in a row, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont won the Democratic primary in the neighboring state of New Hampshire.

And there’s the state’s relationship with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Both spent little time campaigning here, with Biden leaving the state before his fifth-place primary finish.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said, “We’ve always survived.” 

He said no one state is a perfect reflection of the country and that other states don’t take the process as seriously, adding, “They are more enamored by the celebrity candidates where we’ve been known to give a chance to the underfunded candidate or the less-known candidate.”

Spradling said, “They know the issues, they talk to candidates, I think our track record of participation is fantastic.”

While Democrats figure it out, Republican presidential hopefuls are already making appearances in the Granite State.

And there is this sentiment from Graham for those who consider the primary part of the state’s cultural identity: “The Old Man in the Mountain already fell down. We can’t lose the first-in-the-nation primary.”

The Democratic National Committee is expected to discuss the primary order of the states at two public meetings this spring, though it could be a year or more before a final decision is made.

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