Primary Characters

Our first-in-the-nation primary has something for everyone

Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

Are we there yet? Is it tomorrow now? Is it over yet?

The 2020 New Hampshire presidential primary elections, I mean.

No, no, of course not. It’s just beginning. Let’s see, now we have Spartacus from New Jersey, Pocahontas from Massachusetts and Father Time from Delaware. Or is Father Time the venerable Sen. Sanders from Vermont? At least Bernie, if he runs again, won’t likely be spending much time in Iowa, which is so far away, when he can just cross the bridge over the Connecticut River and campaign in his neighboring state among all of us good ol’ boys and girls in the Granite State.

Will Oprah come? I think she knows her way to New Hampshire. I believe she has been here before, as the prophetess, telling us that Obama was The One. Oprah has been everywhere. In all lands they know her and in all tongues they speak of her.

Oh, the history of the New Hampshire primary in all its paradoxical wonder! It has been won by men like Jimmy Carter, who practically lived here, and lost repeatedly by Bob Dole, who did pretty much the same. It has also been won by men who didn’t come at all (Eisenhower in ’52, Lodge in ’64) despite all the talk about the importance of “retail politics” in our primary.

The legend has it that Edmund Muskie stumbled here in ’72 because he cried in front of the Union Leader. But Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire handily over Barak Obama in ’08 after getting teary-eyed for the cameras over losing to Obama in Iowa. JFK, Muskie and Sanders, along with Paul Tsongas and John Kerry, all won here in part, it is believed, because they all hailed from neighboring states. But Mitt Romney lost here twice, despite being the former governor of Massachusetts and a resident of a summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee.

I have succumbed to the myths of the New Hampshire primary, having come here for the first time to volunteer in the 1972 presidential campaign of the late Ohio congressman John Ashbrook. Ashbrook came. He cared. He met the people, spoke in their living rooms, shook hands on frozen street corners. Rep. Paul McCloskey of California did all of that too. Between them, they got less than 30 percent of the vote. The rest went to President Richard Nixon, who spent much of the New Hampshire primary campaign season in China, praising and clinking glasses with Chairman Mao and other Chinese communists.

So my advice to Spartacus, Pocohontas, Fathers Time and others who want to win the New Hampshire primary in 2020 is to go to China while others are scrounging for votes here in New Hampshire. Or, better yet, go to Vietnam, as Henry Cabot Lodge did, join the conspiracy to overthrow the government there, as Lodge did, and promise to bring the US troops home by Christmas — or Easter,  or Opening Day of the baseball season.

Peace, like the New Hampshire primary, is a moving and elusive target.

Categories: Humor