Making New Hampshire Relatively Irrelevant
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Oct 21, 2007 at 10:16:32 AM EDT
There are a lot of people who would like to see New Hampshire lose a good deal of its power in the presidential nominating process, apparently one of whom may be New Hampshire's Secretary of State Bill Gardner. Think I'm exaggerating? Take a look at the move Gardner has floated in the press in recent days, a move that could render the New Hampshire primary significantly less meaningful than it might otherwise be. The AP's Phil Elliott:
New Hampshire's secretary of state dropped two hints Thursday about the coming presidential primary: He won't make a decision about scheduling it until after Nov. 2, and the first-in-the-nation contest could very well be held in December.
"If we have to go in December, we would have to go in December," said Gardner, who alone has the power to set the date of the primary -- and has for the last 31 years.
What's the difference between a December and January primary for New Hampshire? Relevance. Although many wish it were not so, a mid-January New Hampshire primary this cycle would likely play an enormous role in determining the next Democratic nominee. For example at this point -- and I do stress at this point, because much will change in the next couple of months -- an overwhelming victory by any of the candidates in the Granite state could provide the winner with enough momentum to be able to cruise through Nevada and South Carolina to February 5, and possibly even the nomination.
Does anyone believe that a big New Hampshire win in December, followed immediately thereafter by the holiday season rather than a string of other caucuses and primaries, would lead to a winner effectively rolling to the nomination? A big win would undoubtedly lead to a momentum boost for the winner, but momentum towards what? The next nominating contest wouldn't occur for nearly a month, giving the losers ample time to regroup and refocus, and perhaps more importantly the establishment media the time to become open to a new meme that doesn't revolve around inevitability. So while a December New Hampshire primary could lead to a winnowing of the field, it's just not very likely that it would deliver nearly as much punch as a January primary would. And thus New Hampshire could find itself stuck, as a result of the pure hubris of its Secretary of State, with a relatively irrelevant nominating contest.