New Hampshire Primary Has Been Evolving in Recent Years
New England College President Dr. Wayne Lesperance was featured in a WMUR segment about New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status, and America’s primary process as a whole, weathering change.
Transcript taken from WMUR, April 5, 2023. Written by Adam Sexton. Read the original article on WMUR’s website.
The decision of the Democratic National Committee to remove the New Hampshire primary from its first-in-the-nation spot could be seen as the latest in an ongoing series of changes.
Wayne Lesperance, president of New England College, said DNC’s decision is significant, but the feel of the primary has been changing over the past several years.
“If you pay close attention to what’s been happening over the last 12 years, 15 years, the primary has evolved in a way that it has also eroded what we think of when we think of the presidential primary,” Lesperance said.
He said that President Barack Obama, for example, held huge events in the Granite State, a move away from the local, retail politics the New Hampshire primary has been known for.
“We saw national debates taking folks away from New Hampshire,” he said. “It’s the nationalization of the primary process, where we’re talking about national issues, not so much about issues that are important to Granite Staters or local voters.”
Lesperance said Granite Staters aren’t seeing as many events like house parties or visits to the Red Arrow Diner.
“There’s less of those things happening and more emphasis on big national events that are more choreographed that attendees are invited to instead of being open to the public,” he said. “So, there has been a slide in the size of the primary in a direction that is really inconsistent with its origins that should have concerned us all along.”
He said the pressure to end New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status is nothing new.
“Every cycle, there seems to be somebody that wants to replace us as a lead-off contest,” he said. “We’ve gotten pretty good at maintaining ourselves.”
The DNC’s move could help push Republicans to consider changing the primary schedule.
“I’m sure there are Republicans also talking about, ‘Is New Hampshire the best place for us to start? Is a swing state the best place for us to start?'” Lesperance said. “And I fear that once that door has been opened, that we’re going to have even more of a fight uphill fight going forward.”
He said New Hampshire should keep focusing on what the state does well.
“We emphasize the fact that our voters turn out, our voters pay attention and that primaries to Granite Staters are very much part of who we are. We see it in our DNA,” he said. “As long as we hold onto those things, I think we’ll be OK.”
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