The New Hampshire primary is the second of a number of statewide political party primary elections held in the United States every four years, as part of the process of choosing the Democratic and Republican nominees for the presidential elections to be held the subsequent November. Held in the small New England state of New Hampshire, it traditionally marks the opening of the quadrennial U.S. presidential election, although that status was threatened in 2007, as both the Republican and Democratic National Committees moved to give more populous states a bigger influence in the presidential race. This is partly because New Hampshire has so little impact, in terms of delegates, when compared to Super Tuesday. Its real impact comes from the media coverage and momentum that a candidate can attain from a better-than-expected or decisive result in the New Hampshire primary. Several states also sought to move up the dates of their 2008 primaries in order to have more influence and dilute the power of the New Hampshire primary.
Originally held in March, its date has been moved up repeatedly to maintain New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status in the face of ever-earlier primaries in other states. The 2008 primary will be held January 8.
Since 1952, the primary has been a major testing ground for candidates for the Republican and Democratic nominations. Candidates who do poorly usually drop out, while lesser-known, underfunded candidates who do well suddenly become contenders, gaining huge amounts of media attention and money. The media gives New Hampshire – and Iowa, since 1972 the first state to hold a party caucus, usually a week before the New Hampshire primary – about half of all the attention paid to all states in the primary process, magnifying the state’s decision power. This has spurred repeated efforts by other states to try to attain the status of being the first primary in the nation.
It is not a closed primary, in which votes can be cast in a party primary only by people registered with that party. New Hampshire Independents – people not registered with any party – can vote in either party primary. However, it does not meet a common definition of an open primary, because people registered as Republican or Democrat on voting day cannot cast ballots in the primary of the other party.