When Bill Clinton talks about this year’s New Hampshire primary, the former president tends to focus on one of the candidate’s regional advantage. Slate had this report the other day:
“I want to begin by saying that I know there’s a hard fight here,” Clinton said at the beginning of his rally in Concord, New Hampshire on Wednesday, his third visit to the state since he recently began campaigning, “and I know we’re running against one of your neighbors.” (Lowering expectations by noting that Sanders represents Vermont, and that’s probably the only reason why Hillary could/will lose here? Check.)
By one account, Bill Clinton claimed recently that no candidate whose state borders New Hampshire has ever lost a presidential primary in the Granite State.
And this got me thinking. We tend to consider Southern candidates having a geographic edge when competing in Southern primaries, but is the same thing true in New England? Is Clinton right that New Hampshire’s neighbors always win when running in the New Hampshire primary?
Let’s check the record.
New Hampshire borders three states – Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts – which limits the field of possible candidates quite a bit. That said, quite a few Granite State neighbors have run in the first-in-the-nation primary and done very well. Here’s the list of Democrats from the modern era:
* 1972: Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine won the primary
* 1980: Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts lost the primary (he was challenging an incumbent president)
* 1988: Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts won the primary
* 1992: Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts won the primary
* 2004: Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts won the primary
* 2004: Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont lost the primary (he was running against Kerry, another New Hampshire neighbor, who won)
Among Republicans, it’s a different story, largely because there are far fewer examples. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, for example, won the primary in 2012 and came a close second in 2008. And what about other Republicans running from states neighboring New Hampshire? In the modern era, there are no other examples.
Taken together, it looks like there’s something to Clinton’s thesis. When a New Hampshire neighbor runs in the primary, he usually wins.