BOW, N.H. — The Republican presidential campaign’s focus on Iowa is over, so the spotlight on ethanol and evangelicals is out.

Now begins an eight-day sprint in New Hampshire that in many ways will be entirely different because this state’s voters reflect a different side of the Republican Party. They’re socially moderate and fiscally frugal, and use a primary voting system that allows greater participation by independent-minded voters who revel in upsetting the conventional wisdom.

That’s why Ohio Gov. John Kasich is spending so much time here. He didn’t win over Iowa’s social conservatives and prefers to talk more about balancing budgets and finding ways to work with Democrats than going on about social issues.

“I’ll tell you why I came here,” he told an audience at a town hall meeting in the Bow Elementary School. He gestured to the roughly 200 voters. “Because of this.”

“You come here, and you look and you poke, once in a while you smell and you try to decide, is this our leader?” he said.

Although Iowa held the first caucus, New Hampshire has refused to give up its moniker of “First in the Nation,” referring not just to the first primary but a fierce belief that it still sets the country’s political course in a way that Iowa often does not.

“New Hampshire has gone differently than Iowa in six of the last nine elections on the Republican side, so the idea that one follows the other’s lead just doesn’t bear out,” said Wayne Lesperance, professor of political science at New England College in Henniker, N.H.

On the contrary, he said, “New Hampshire voters take pride in being independent. The only thing we have in common with Iowa is we are first in the nation.”

And yet, Iowa and New Hampshire share more in common this cycle, thanks to Donald Trump. He has held a double-digit lead over his Republican opponents here for more than 30 weeks and dominates the headlines – just as he did in Iowa.

For now, Trump is favored by 38 percent of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire, according to a Boston Herald-Franklin Pierce University poll released Sunday. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a distant second at 13 percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 10 percent; Kasich, 8 percent; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 5 percent.

A CNN-WMUR-TV poll released Sunday showed similar results: Trump with 30 percent, followed by Cruz, 12 percent; Rubio, 11 percent; Kasich, 9 percent; Christie, 8 percent; and Bush with 6 percent.

“The NH GOP primary polling has been stable for months now,” Dante Scala, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said in an email. Surveys have shown “only minor shifts” among the “establishment” candidates – Rubio, Bush, Kasich and Christie – making it difficult to track any widespread switch in support from one to the other, he said.

That’s why Bush, Christie, Kasich and Rubio see New Hampshire as crucial – it’s perhaps their last opportunity to emerge as the anti-Trump.

Kasich was scheduled to hold his 89th town hall meeting Monday night. Christie has held 114 public events in New Hampshire since launching his campaign in June. Bush, who has most relentlessly attacked Trump as unqualified to be president, has hosted 80 public events in the state as of Monday night. Rubio has been in New Hampshire less frequently.

Supporters of the New Hampshire primary process like to remind skeptics that they have more often picked the Republican nominee in recent years than Iowa. In 2008 and 2012, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses thanks to strong support from evangelicals. Neither went on to win New Hampshire or the nomination. Instead, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain won here in 2008 and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won in 2012 – both went on to secure the party’s nomination.

One of the biggest differences is that it is far easier to vote in New Hampshire. Iowa’s caucus system requires hours of time at local meetings and commitments to a political party. The caucuses don’t directly determine which candidates get delegates. It is an expression of preference that must be ratified months later at state party meetings.

In New Hampshire, a citizen of the state can walk up to the polls at the last minute and cast a ballot, resulting in a higher overall participation rate. That has led many New Hampshirites to look down on the Iowa caucuses, a view most famously summed up by Republican former Gov. John H. Sununu, who once said that Iowa picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents. Many people here in both parties agree.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: