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New Hampshire sent message, but it wasn't about Haley, Trump, Phillips or DeSantis

OpinionNew Hampshire sent message, but it wasn't about Haley, Trump, Phillips or DeSantis

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I learned something Tuesday night as I came to realize that somehow, in the very strange place we call New Hampshire, anything can happen.

Nothing that I expected came to pass in the primary there, and like a loser at the racetrack tearing up tickets, I shook my head in stern consternation.

But something gave me pause because this column that you are reading was supposed to be a requiem for the New Hampshire primary, and it still might be, but, suddenly, I’m not so sure.

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The Democrats may never vote first in New Hampshire again, and GOP primaries may not be enough to sustain its storied position, but even this down at the heel iteration of the event offered some important surprises.

As I outlined in earlier columns here, there was no juice this time in the Granite State, the circus did not come to town, this was the consensus of everyone I talked to, lifelong residents whose memories stretched to Truman and Muskie said so. 

But for Republicans there were two possibilities, either Trump would knock Haley out with a blow out, or she would stay close and live to fight on. 

The results from the voters were right down the middle, you’d need instant replay review to splice the difference between a big Trump win and a Haley moral victory.

There is a fluidity about the New Hampshire primary that courts surprises and game changers, in 1972 it was Ed Muskie’s emotional breakdown, in 2024 it was Ron DeSantis’ surprise move to drop out less than 72 hours before voting started. 

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That decision profoundly changed expectations, with DeSantis in, the conventional wisdom was that Haley needed to get within single digits of Trump, with the Florida governor out, and the two person race a reality, as Haley predicted, the 11 point deficit by which she lost punched her ticket to South Carolina.

That is what the New Hampshire Primary does and why it may have redeemed itself as the rightful first primary in the nation.

There was never a particularly good reason why New Hampshire should go first, the best is probably that it is small enough for residents to kick the candidates’ tires, but it’s not the only small state.

And traditions do go by the wayside over time, but the potential loss of New Hampshire’s primary status feels like more than a loss of mere trappings, it feels like it would break a connection to our past.

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The New Hampshire primary creates beautiful weirdness like Vermin Supreme, who has been running for president here since 1992, wearing a rubber boot on his head with a platform of free ponies and time travel. He is a local legend.

He and many others are part of a unique fanfare and pageantry, one in which this year former Senator Scott Brown’s rock band headlined a political event, and all of it is in celebration of one very important and very American idea, the joy of voting.

The potential erasure of the New Hampshire primary would not be the only political norm we have lost of late.

Consider the likelihood that neither of the two candidates in the general election will have participated in a single primary debate, consider further the bizarre but real possibility that there will be no debates between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

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Meanwhile, and in large part thanks to Covid, we no longer have election day, we have election weeks or months in which early voting is the norm, not the exception.

We can’t say we weren’t warned, this is all part of that new normal we were promised.

So here we are, the Democrats all but canceled the New Hampshire primary, there won’t be any debates, oh, and the presumptive GOP nominee is under 91 indictments and might be banned from the ballot in several states.

Also, nobody seems to want a rematch between Biden and Trump but somehow it is as inevitable as the sunrise.

The basic infrastructure and style of American presidential elections is transforming before our eyes.

All of this should make us consider comments last year from Klaus Schwab at the World Economic Forum in which he wondered whether we even still need elections.

“…since the next step could be to go into prescriptive mode, which means you do not even have to have elections anymore because you can already predict,” Schwab asked an expert in AI adding, “Because we know what the result will be. Can you imagine such a world?”

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When Americans envision the end of elections, or the end of our democratic republic, we tend to imagine bold proclamations, or military coups, but what if that isn’t how it happens?

What if it is a slow erosion of tradition, of participation, what if the holy hijinx of American elections is replaced by a cold analytics, giving us the leadership we didn’t even know we wanted?

This is why we need the New Hampshire primary, debates, a celebratory election day, and to avoid any plans coming out of the WEF like the plague.

Andy Warhol said that in the future everyone will have 15 minutes of fame, New Hampshire says that every 4 years anybody can have 15 minutes to try to become president, and some of them do.

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As one local put it to me, “The spirit of the New Hampshire primary is stronger than the quality of the candidates in 2024.” I sincerely hope this is true because we continue to lose so many traditions in this post-COVID world, this awful new normal.

We need the New Hampshire primary, it is part of who we are, and once again, in 2024 the people of that great state showed why, this primary season is only moving on to South Carolina because they decided that it should.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM DAVID MARCUS

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