The 2012 New Hampshire Presidential Primaries officially kicked off this weekend with two major elections: A Tea Party activist was chosen to lead the Granite State Republicans through the next two years. And a young, smart-as-a-whip Dartmouth College graduate was chosen to lead the New Hampshire Young Democrats. The elections took place on the same day, Saturday, but were miles and poles apart.
The Republicans got all the press, however: The New York Times, ABC Nightly News, The Washington Post. And all because of the first-in-the-nation primary. Over and over again, it was reported that the new head of the Republican party in New Hampshire was chosen despite the opposition of the likes of former White House Chief of Staff and New Hampshire Gov. John Henry Sununu.
The contradiction here comes at the end of the Republicans’ straw vote for the primary: Mitt Romney won that. The next three top vote-getters, in order: Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin.
Some of that had to rub off on many of the out-of-state reporters and pundits who came to New Hampshire this weekend to see what the Republicans would do.
They will still, however, be overheard to say New Hampshire is not diverse enough to host the first-in-the-nation primary. And it’s true, we are a very white state, but what those reporters and pundits don’t seem to realize is that the Caucasian, the African Americans, the Latinos and many others are extremely knowledgable about politics, politicians and the issues. They are more engaged in the process because of how small this state is.
A dear friend of mine, who retired from a local police department after growing up here, was driving then U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez around his Florida district several years ago. Sen. Martinez, you may recall, was a hugely popular Cuban immigrant in a hugely populated Cuban district. They stopped at a hall where some 400 other Cuban immigrants waited to hear what the good senator had to say.
My friend said Sen. Martinez made brief remarks and then turned to his audience for questions. No one, no one said a word.
My friend’s response as he painted the picture for me was, “I thought, ‘If this were New Hampshire and there were 38 people in the room, 36 would asked pointed questions and expect complete and rational answers.’”
Granite Staters invite candidates into their living rooms. They let them sleep in their guest rooms. They have coffee with them at diners and beers with them at bars. Where else could you have a drink with Viggo Mortensen while he’s in town to stump for Dennis Kucinich? Really?
Please don’t tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about. You come here every four years and stand on the banks of the mighty Merrimack River but you never really take the time to truly see and hear who we are.