NH Primary Is Over for Another Four Years

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Garry Rayno is InDepthNH.org's State House Bureau Chief. He is pictured in the press room at the State House in Concord.

By GARRY RAYNO, Distant Dome

The 2024 Presidential Primary for New Hampshire is over and it was one of the least exciting primaries in a while.

The Democratic National Committee saw to it that the Democratic side of the ballot was in their words “meaningless” because no delegates were at stake as New Hampshire thumbed its nose at its attempt to change the running order making South Carolina the leadoff primary and New Hampshire second fiddle along with Nevada.

It takes more than the DNC to upend more than a century of tradition and New Hampshire was once again the first primary in the country for both Republicans and Democrats.

At least the Republican National Committee had the good sense to leave a sleeping lion alone.

While the outcome was inconclusive if you want to read the tea leaves well in advance of the 2024 general election, it did feature a fairly large field of GOP candidates that had dwindled to just two when the votes were cast.

Former President Donald Trump and his UN Ambassador Nikki Haley were the only two standing when voters turned out to the polls in record numbers for the Republican primary.

The Democratic side was interesting for the write-in campaign for President Joe Biden who did not add his name to the ballot having engineered the switch of the running order, but it could have been very embarrassing for him if he didn’t win, but he did.

The Secretary of State’s Office has yet to release some of the more interesting data from last Tuesday’s primary like how many undeclared voters participated and how many of the independents took Republican ballots versus Democratic ballots, and how many switched back to being independent or remain as Republicans or Democrats after taking a partisan ballot to vote.

But the final vote tallies show that Trump won the New Hampshire Presidential Primary for the Republican nomination with 54.2 percent of the votes, and Haley finished with 43.2 percent.

Trump did have to come back from a 6-0 deficit after Dixville Notch voted just after midnight, but did not come close to his prediction earlier that he would win by 30 points.

He did win by double digits, which is pretty good, and not what Haley and her chief cheerleader Gov. Chris Sununu had hoped as he was predicting Haley could win on some of the Sunday political pundit shows the weekend before the vote.

You could tell Trump was not happy at how close the results were given the large lead he had just a month or two ago, by the attacks on her in his victory speech.

And Haley has continued in the race and probably should stay in as long as possible if the remainder of Trump’s week was any indication with a $83.3 million award for defaming E. Jean Carroll by a New York City jury and another New York judge deciding on a fraud case with the New York Attorney General seeking a $370 million judgment and barring him and his family from doing business in New York.

Looking at the head-to-head competition between Trump and Haley in the primary, Haley won only one county, Grafton, home to a couple of colleges and the progressive Upper Valley.

Haley won 52 percent of the vote in Grafton County and Trump had 48 percent, the low water mark for him in the state’s counties.

Despite having the 6-0 deficit in Coos County, Trump rebounded to take 62 percent of the head-to-head competition, which was his highest percentage of any county.

His second highest county percentage was in Belknap at 58 percent, followed by Sullivan at 57.5 percent and Rockingham with 57 percent.

The former president received 56 percent in Cheshire, 55 percent in both Hillsborough and Strafford counties, 54 percent in Carroll and 53.5 percent in Merrimack.

Using Secretary of State information from the 2020 election results, Democrats outnumber Republicans in five counties: Cheshire, Grafton, Merrimack, Strafford and Sullivan, but undeclared voters outnumbered both parties in all 10 counties.

So consequently the winning percentage may be lower for Trump in Merrimack, it is higher in Cheshire and Strafford so that would indicate there was a significant number of undeclared voters participating in those counties.

And you would have expected Haley to do better in Cheshire and Strafford counties than she did, and Rockingham as well.

From the percentages Haley received in those counties, it does not appear the governor has very long coattails when it comes to picking presidents.

On the other side, Biden did surprisingly well for a write-in candidate. Biden received 63.9 percent of the total Democratic votes, Tuesday, while Minnesota Cong. Dean Phillips received 19.6 percent and Marianne Williamson 4 percent.

Former President Lyndon Johnson was a write-in candidate on the Democratic ballot in the 1968 Presidential Primary and received only 49 percent of the vote, while Minnesota US Senator Eugene McCarthy received 42 percent, and soon after, Johnson announced he would not seek re-election under the burden of the growingly unpopular Vietnam War.

In Tuesday’s vote, Biden received over 70 percent of the three-way vote in all but two counties, Belknap and Coos. 

His lowest percentage was in Belknap at 67 percent and Coos was 69 percent.

His highest percentage of the three-way contest was 78 percent in Carroll and Grafton counties.

Biden received 75 percent in Sullivan, 74 percent in Cheshire, 73 percent in Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford, and 70 percent in Hillsborough.

The one that stands out is Hillsborough where most of the Democratic hierarchy reside, but it also may be where the most resentment over the change in the primary order is visible.

Phillips said he wanted to receive about 20 percent of the vote and he did most everywhere in the three-way contest.

His high-water mark was surprisingly Belknap, which is one of the least Democratic counties in the state and maybe that is why.

Phillips’ lowest percentage was in highly Democratic Grafton County at 17 percent, and 19 percent in Carroll.

The rest of the counties were all between 25 and 20 percent with most 21 or 22.

Williamson had her best showing in Rockingham at 7 percent, but most others were 4, 5 or 6 percent, except Carroll where she received only 3 percent.

Tuesday’s vote ended years of planning for some candidates.

What you can be assured of is that four years from now will not look like anything that happened this time.

It is very likely that both parties will have wide open fields filled with a new generation of candidates, which should make things much more exciting.

That was what a lot of people were hoping for in the 2024 contests, but the old guard is still hanging on.

Garry Rayno may be reached at garry.rayno@yahoo.com.

Garry Rayno may be reached at garry.rayno@yahoo.comDistant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.

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