Republicans Set Sights on First Primary State

NYT FDJonathan Martin March 13, 2015

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Good Friday morning from Washington. After a week filled with discussion of email servers and smartphones, President Obama revealed to Jimmy Kimmel that he delegates his tweeting and never sends a text. Former President George W. Bush, motivated by the situation in Myanmar, made a rare foray into foreign affairs; and don’t try pestering Supreme Court justices about coming decisions – they don’t budge. But in the meantime, for those seeking a campaign fix, the Granite State is the place to look this weekend.

Now, it is New Hampshire’s turn.

In the early stages of the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Iowa has received much of the attention. Iowa, whose caucuses begin the nominating contest, has staged two widely attended candidate forums since the start of the year and has experienced many separate trips from White House hopefuls.

But this weekend, the action will move east to the first actual primary state, New Hampshire. Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin – perhaps the early front-runners in the Republican race – are both visiting the Granite State for the first time. Former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is already in New Hampshire and also has a full schedule there on Friday.

All three, along with the other Republican aspirants, will surely return often. Why? Longtime veterans of New Hampshire politics say they cannot recall another primary that was so up in the air. When Mitt Romney, who easily won the 2012 primary there, decided not to run again, it ensured that there would be no New Hampshire favorite.

The question now is whether New Hampshire will return to its king-making form. The politicians in Concord like to say that “Iowa picks corn, and New Hampshire picks presidents,” but Iowa caucusgoers have done a better job of determining who would ultimately be commander-in-chief of late: Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama won Iowa, but lost New Hampshire.

Granite State voters at times like to show their independence by upending the conventional wisdom. But they also relish their first-in-the-nation status and are eager to find a candidate who can take the White House. That is after, of course, they get to meet the prospects a dozen or so times.