NH Presidential Primary

Voting dayThe 2008 New Hampshire Presidential Primary is over.

The votes have been counted — although they will likely be recounted; the candidates have flown off to Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina; the phones have stopped ringing with messages from the campaigns and pollsters; the daily mail is noticeably thinner and lighter; some candidate signs have disappeared from the lawns; and it’s probably easier to find a hotel room these days.

About the only echo from Tuesday’s primary is the continuing discussion of why the polls were so wrong in predicting that Barack Obama would sweep the Democratic vote, when Hillary Clinton prevailed by almost three points (39.0% of the Democratic votes, versus 36.4%).

Beyond the theater of the primary season, which is always interesting and entertaining, it’s amazing to watch and participate in the process of selecting a presidential nominee. From my life experience, rarely does one have the opportunity to have personal access to a man or woman who may one day be the President of the United States. It’s quite a different perception from watching the 30-second attack ads and having the troubling sense that “we the people” no longer have access to our national government.

The rest of this year’s primary will test the historical importance of New Hampshire having the first primary in the nation. While the small size of the state and a strong tradition enable retail politics, the lack of diversity has been cited as a reason for allowing other states to have early contests (e.g., Nevada) or moving to a national primary (e.g., Super Tuesday). Whether this debate was a factor or whether it was the wide open race and the importance of the upcoming presidential election, it is very gratifying that 526,000 turned out to vote in New Hampshire. That eclipses the previous high turnout of some 396,000 in 2000.

New Hampshire set a good tone, and I am hopeful for the country.

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