Critics question whether New Hampshire still deserves to hold first-in-the-nation primary

New Hampshire’s primary tradition at risk
New Hampshire’s primary tradition at risk 04:33

Tuesday's election marks New Hampshire's 100th anniversary of holding the first-in-the-nation primary.  As voters head to the polls, some question whether it is time to leave the century-old tradition behind.

In the past 60 years, only President Bill Clinton managed to win the general election without winning either the Iowa or New Hampshire primaries. After Iowa's caucus saw widespread technical errors in the app used to count ballots, people are asking whether going first is something Iowa and New Hampshire can still take for granted.

Walter Cronkite once marveled at New Hampshire voters' pride in getting to the polls. They "use every bit of Yankee ingenuity to get to the polls," he reported in 1964. "One well-known dog sled racer offered voters a sledding taxi service."

The requirement for New Hampshire to hold the first primary is mandated by state law, CBS News' Ed O'Keefe explained.

However, the Boston Globe argued in a recent editorial that it was time to "kill the tradition" of starting the election cycle in Iowa and New Hampshire, pointing out the states "more resemble 19th-century America" than the more diverse United States today.

"It is more diverse than people realize," one New Hampshire resident challenged.

Another said New Hampshire is "rooted in small-town democracy." Because of New Hampshire's place as "first in the nation," it is also rooted in political history.

The 1988 Republican New Hampshire primary saw Bob Dole's campaign come to a halt after he answered Tom Brokaw's question of whether he had anything to say to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush with a curt "stop lying about my record."

Republican Gary Bauer made headlines in the run up to the 2000 New Hampshire primary when he famously fell off the stage during the "Bisquick Pancake Presidential Primary Flip-Off" trying to chase a rogue pancake that had flipped too high. John McCain went on to win the state.

More recently, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had a memorable exchange during the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which he responded to her complimenting his likeability.

"You're likeable enough, Hillary," he said to audience laughter.

Clinton went on to win New Hampshire before losing the nomination to Obama. Eight years later, she fell short to Bernie Sanders in the state.

Sanders likely hopes for a similar outcome in Tuesday's election, though who will end up on the ticket in November remains to be seen.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that President George Bush won the New Hampshire primary in 2000. The primary was won by John McCain.