In New Hampshire, Voters Actually Think

As the New York Times’ Gail Collins notes this morning, New Hampshire is a state where no drive is too long, no appearance too inconvenient for the hardy souls who are preparing to choose their favorite Democrat. With the exception of their counterparts in Iowa, no other group of average citizens actually hones in on candidates’ shifting positions quite like the policy wonks known as New Hampshire voters. These are folks who — as the media has discovered — actually seem to be able to track even the subtlest differences among the candidates.

And it’s precisely because of their obsession with the nuances of arcane policy details. The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach says that New Hampshire voters so often throw a monkey wrench into the aspirations of candidates’ and their handlers. (That and perhaps just a bit of orneriness at being pinned in the glare of the media halogen for so long.)

But after tomorrow, things may change dramatically. What has thus far been a local election goes national Wednesday, with seven states holding primaries on February 3, and 28 more in the pipeline. Will the voters in South Carolina, Arizona and Missouri also hang on to every word, every nuance? Will they too fill VFW halls to overflowing? (Remember, they don’t even have to risk frostbite.) If history is any guide, it’s not likely. Which is why New Hampshire remains a reminder of what democracy could be. It’s good that Collins reminded us of that.


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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.