Back in the day you would get a call. “So and So Congress-person from some Midwestern state was coming to town… And, would you like to meet him (and sadly it was mostly a him) for coffee at the Barley House? “
That was the power of New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Primary in a small state of a little over a million people – reaching voters was easy. But back then the average field of candidates was 6-12, not 30.
The amazing thing is that New Hampshire is a remarkably political place, people vote in high numbers, but they also offer candidates space to breathe, and a bit of respect.
But then 2016 happened. Yes, that was the year the Cubs won the World Series, but it was also the year that Trump upended the New Hampshire tradition.
Massive crowds meant no sense of community, no ability to ask questions, no way to interact with the candidate. Up high on a podium you can look down on the people who are gathered there without ever asking questions or being able to know who you are.
But that’s not what the New Hampshire Primary is about - nor does it play to the strengths of what makes New Hampshire special. And I think this time around candidates, both Republican and Democrat, will find meeting one-on-one with voters is not only a valuable tool on the road to the White House, but a good way to know what people are thinking about and where their concerns are.
This is more the marketing; it’s really good communications by having a dialogue with the people who you want to represent – instead of a TV ad war or giant empty rallies.
Let’s hope NH is able to retain its “First in the Nation” status and the rest of the nation comes to see New Hampshire not simply as a place that picks presidents but rather is a place that tests candidates. It is not about winning the New Hampshire primary really, but about immersing yourself in its potential.