April 20, 2024

Economix: New Hampshire Is Not Unique

I imagine that I may hear from a few people in New Hampshire and Iowa, in response to my column arguing for a different primary schedule. Someone may point out, accurately, that New Hampshire had the highest primary-voter turnout of any state in 2008 — 53.6 percent, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University. (Iowa, a caucus state, had a turnout of only 16.1 percent.)

But I don’t think New Hampshire’s turnout proves that its residents are uniquely qualified to vet presidential candidates. Remember, the major candidates spent weeks and weeks in the state in 2007 and early 2008. They knocked on doors, held town-hall meetings and shook thousands of hands. That long run-up is an impressive display of retail politics, as I and almost any other reporter who was there can attest.

There is every reason, though, to think that other states would rise to the challenge if they were the host of the first primary. Even without all of the attention that New Hampshire received, voter turnout surged elsewhere in 2008, mostly because the race between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama remained competitive for so long.

Turnout in Wisconsin jumped to 37.1 percent, from 22.7 percent in 2000, the previous time both parties had a nominating competition. Turnout went to 37.3 percent in Indiana, from — as I calculate, based on this data — about 16 percent in 2000. It went to 40.7 percent in Vermont, from 29 percent, and to 42.4 percent in Ohio, from 30.6 percent. In Oregon, it went to 43.2 percent, from 29 percent.

None of these states received remotely the attention that New Hampshire did. In many cases, they had little tradition of hosting primaries that mattered. Yet they nonetheless had voter turnout that was three-quarters or even four-fifths as high as New Hampshire’s. To me, that’s a good argument for giving others a chance — on top of the basic fairness issues and the economic issues I lay out in the column. But I look forward to hearing others’ views.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d328cc93e507b00ca9a87efcd39bcffc

Speak Your Mind