“Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks presidents.”

–      former NH Gov. John Sununu

Oh, the humility with which the mountainous, heavily-forested strip mall to our north has milked its first-in-the-nation cash cow. But after last week’s news that President Joe Biden wants to shunt New Hampshire to also-ran status so South Carolina can go first in the 2024 presidential sweepstakes, Iowans have a retort: at least you can eat corn.

Not that there’s any gloating in Des Moines. The Democrats also decided to dump the idiotic Iowa caucuses following 2020’s vote-counting debacle. But New Hampshire’s leading pols were sure acting like they’d been fed a bleep sandwich. “Shame,” tweeted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of the “short-sighted” decision. To Sen. Maggie Hassan, it was “deeply misguided.” (Can it be both, geometrically speaking?) And Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said of Biden what those two wanted to say but wouldn’t: “He blew it.”


The path to national victory for Democrats is growing younger, more urban and non-white with every passing cycle. New Hampshire is none of those things, although Democratic National Committee honcho Jim Roosevelt bent over backwards in an interview with MASSterList to credit the state with some diversity, claiming “there’s economic diversity and rural/urban diversity.” It was a tendon-popping effort.

Even worse was this offering from state Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley: “In New Hampshire the people of color actually get to be in the living room and have a one-on-one conversation with the candidate.”

How special for them!

But what about New Hampshire’s “unique retail politics,” pleads Hassan? “In New Hampshire it doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you come from or who knows your name,” claims Shaheen. “In our primary, everyone has a fair shot.”

LOL, apple cider spit-take! New Hampshire primary winner Bernie Sanders spent $205 million on his failed 2020 candidacy. Pete Buttigieg spent $94 million, Amy Klobuchar $55 million to place and show up there. Relatively underfunded candidates have on rare occasions posted decent finishes in New Hampshire, but they never win, because it really matters how much money you have.

But what about all the flannel-clad townsfolk trooping through the snow to take the candidates’ measure and look under the hood at picturesque “town hall” events?  Give it a rest. Most of them already back the pol in question, according to academic research.

A handful of junkies and diner rats might be swung by a clammy handshake and a quick exchange of banalities, but most New Hampshire voters experience the campaign through TV ads, debates, news coverage and conventional GOTV – just like voters in less-quaint, more diverse states.

And no, New Hampshire does not “pick presidents.” Over the last 10 electoral cycles, not one winner of a contested Democratic primary there has gone on to win the presidency; only incumbent George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Donald Trump in 2016 have done it on the GOP side.

But never fear, white privilege will prevail. There will still be a first-in-the-nation 2024 Democratic primary in the Granite State, even if it elects no delegates. No serious campaign or media organization will skip it. So buck up, New Hampshire. Come next winter, your cash cow will still need milking.

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Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.