Like Iowa, New Hampshire is a symbolic prize that heavily influences the states that follow. It's a last chance for retail, small-town politics before the campaign suddenly escalates in speed and scope, leaping beyond the reach of underfunded, understaffed dark horse candidates. But also like Iowa, it has the reputation of a wolf thinning the herd, a brutal early test of electoral viability. Here is a look at some of the most iconic moments in New Hampshire primaries
Michigan Gov. George Romney takes 34 attempts at a Franklin, N.H., bowling alley before finally knocking down the final pin. Time Magazine notes that Romney "may not be a hotshot bowler, but he is no quitter." The writer spoke too soon. Two weeks before the March 12 primary, Romney withdraws in the face of insurmountable odds in his battle against Richard Nixon. Romney's collapse is largely attributed to an off-the-cuff remark earlier that summer asserting that he had been "brainwashed" into supporting the Vietnam War. He never recovered from the gaffe.
In an emotional speech, Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine calls the editor of The Manchester Union Leader a "gutless coward" for printing a letter alleging that Muskie had spoken derisively of French-Canadian Americans. The "Canuck letter" later proves fraudulent. But Muskie's highly emotional response sparks fears regarding his emotional stability. He wins New Hampshire, but more narrowly than hoped, and he is quickly eclipsed by second-place finisher George McGovern.
President Gerald Ford edges Former Governor Ronald Reagan by 1,587 votes, the narrowest in state history. Ford goes on to win the nomination. Reagan’s campaign manager later points to that slim victory as the turning point. "The week before the New Hampshire primary, our polling showed us ahead in Florida,” says John Sears, Reagan’s campaign manager. “Then on the Saturday after the New Hampshire primary, the poll showed us 18 points down, which gives you some idea of what momentum, or lack of it, can do."
Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan creates an iconic moment when he insists that a scheduled two-way debate with George Bush be expanded to include the less-prominent candidates. When the moderator asks that Reagan's microphone be turned off, Reagan loudly declares, "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!" (He was. His campaign had underwritten the cost of the debate.) Applause roars through the room. The moment allows Reagan to be the statesman, hovering above the field. He goes on to decisively defeat Bush in New Hampshire and cruise to the nomination.
After a January 19 Boston Globe poll show Former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton leading in New Hampshire by double digits, he is hit on January 23 with the first of several “bimbo eruptions” that will pepper his career. Clinton denies the charges and arranges a joint appearance with his wife on 60 Minutes, immediately after the Super Bowl on January 26. When he pulls to within single digits of Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas on election day, he declares himself “The Comeback Kid.”
After shocking Sen. Robert Dole by 3,000 votes in the New Hampshire GOP primary, political pundit Patrick Buchanan calls on his followers in his Manchester victory speech. "Do not wait for orders from headquarters, mount up everybody and ride to the sound of the guns," he urges. In bloodying the nose of the centrist Dole, New Hampshire Republicans anticipate the tea party by 12 years, and in choosing an unelectable protest candidate, they live up to their state's motto of "Live free or die."
Arizona Senator John McCain hops on his Straight Talk Express bus to work New Hampshire stem to stern, overcoming Texas Governor George Bush’s early lead. McCain’s populist, outsider tone resonates in a state that four years earlier road to the sound of Pat Buchanan’s guns. McCain knocks off Bush with a decisive 49% to 30% win. Bush’s team vows to come after him hard in South Carolina.
Former First Lady Hillary Clinton chokes up in Portsmouth with an audience of women. "Some people think elections are a game — who's up or who's down," she says, adding "It's about our country. It's about our kids' future." She doesn't cry, but she chokes up and is forced to pause. Inevitably compared to Muskie's moment, the effect is different, as a candidate seen as overly scripted — or a Lady Macbeth — becomes more human and sympathetic. Hillary goes on to beat Obama here, becoming the second Clinton "Comeback Kid" in New Hampshire.