The people of New Hampshire have a quaint self-delusion that they pick Presidents. In fact, they like to denigrate Iowa specifically by saying “Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks Presidents.”
The actual truth is that New Hampshire has been on an unrelenting losing streak that goes back over three decades, for both parties. In every contested primary – Republican or Democrat – since 1992, New Hampshire has picked a candidate who either a) lost their party’s nomination or b) lost the general election.
Let’s review the history. In 2012, the Democrats had an incumbent, but the Republicans had a hotly contested primary in New Hampshire. Mitt Romney won, but went on to lose the general election to Barack Obama.
In 2008, both parties had a contested primary in New Hampshire. For the Democrats, New Hampshire chose Hillary, who would go on to lose her party’s nomination. For the Republicans, New Hampshire would pick John McCain, who would go on to lose in the general.
In 2004, the Republicans had an incumbent, but the Democrats had a contested primary, which John Kerry won. That led him to the Democratic nomination, whereupon he lost in the general to George W. Bush.
In 2000, both races were contested again, and for the Republicans, New Hampshire picked John McCain, who would go on to lose his party’s nomination to George W. Bush. For the Democrats, New Hampshire (barely) picked Al Gore, who would go on to lose to Bush in the general.
In 1996, the Democrats had an incumbent, but the Republicans had a contested primary, which was won (astonishingly) by Pat Buchanan. Quite frankly, when this happened, we ought to have just banned the state of New Hampshire from voting altogether, or at least removed them from being one of the earliest contests, but we are not an especially smart party when it comes to politics. I think it should go without saying that Buchanan did not win the Republican nomination or the Presidency.
In 1992 the Republicans had an incumbent, but the Democrats had a contested primary, which was won by Paul Tsongas. Tsongas would go on to lose to Bill Clinton in his party’s nomination.
In 1988, the Democrats had a contested primary in New Hampshire, which was won by Michael Dukakis. He would go on to win his party’s nomination, but lose the general election. For the Republicans, New Hampshire picked George H. W. Bush, which would count as their only win in the last 30 years, except that Bush was basically an incumbent, as the sitting Vice President for a popular outgoing two term President.
In 1984, the Republicans had an incumbent, but the Democrats had a contested primary, which was won by Gary Hart. Hart would go on to lose the nomination to Walter Mondale, who would himself lose to Reagan in historic fashion.
Which brings us back to 1980, the one and only time a true first term President was catapulted to the Presidency by winning New Hampshire, when Reagan cleaned George H. W. Bush’s clock.
What this history means is that New Hampshire has a 32-year uninterrupted history of picking losers in genuinely contested primaries. Based on the results last night, it looks like that streak will be extended to 36 years. Bernie Sanders has no shot at beating Hillary. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, he has no shot at beating Hillary either.
People like to kvetch about Iowa’s involvement in the process, but Iowa has a positively stellar record by comparison, having catapulted Barack Obama (2008) and George W. Bush (2000) to the Presidency. Maybe it’s time to talk about moving New Hampshire back in the calendar some.