New Hampshire Primary primer (for middle schoolers)

This is a post for middle (and high) school students who have not yet been paying attention to the Republican Presidential Race, but want to start paying attention.

You may be curious why there’s all this attention focused on New Hampshire, a tiny state up in New England.

Who cares about New Hampshire?

Well, it’s the second state to have its Republican voters decide who they want to represent them in the November 2012 election against President Obama. Here’s a list of Republican primary and caucus dates from Wikipedia — the first contests in January are Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.

The first state to make its choice was Iowa, which you likely heard a little about last week. That was a very close race, with Mitt Romney, the current “front runner,” winning the Iowa Caucus by eight votes:

In a caucus or primary (they’re not all that different for our purposes), voters from a particular party vote on who they like best. In most primaries, only registered Republicans can vote for the Republican nomination.

I just learned that in the New Hampshire Primary, non-registered voters can vote in either primary. Here’s a blurb from Wikipedia about the NH Primary:

It is not a closed primary, in which votes can be cast in a party primary only by people registered with that party. Undeclared voters — those 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.

Democrats (and non-registered voters) are also voting for their nominee, but that’s a far less exciting prospect, since President Obama is basically running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

It’s good to win, but Romney was expected to win. So in Iowa the candidates who came in second and third place were especially pleased with their results. Rick Santorum’s campaign got some much-needed momentum, and Ron Paul’s campaign, which was not expected to do quite so well, clearly exceeded expectations.

Here are the full results from Iowa:

These early contests matter because they give an indication of how well organized each candidate really is — at least in Iowa and New Hampshire.

How much do these early votes matter? Well, as a result of her poor showing in Iowa (her home state), Michele Bachmann withdrew from the race, leaving just six major candidates — all white men.

Heading into the New Hampshire Primary tomorrow, Mitt Romney should do quite well. New Hampshire shares a border with Massachusetts, the state where Romney served as governor from 2003 to 2007.

According to these polls of voters in New Hampshire from the website Real Clear Politics, Romney has a huge lead in New Hampshire (he’s the one in purple on the graph below) .

The up-and-coming candidate (aside from Santorum and Paul, who should have momentum from their strong showing in Iowa) is Newt Gingrich, who recently benefited when a billionaire from Las Vegas made a $5 million donation to a political action committee (or PAC) that supports Gingrich.

Who is Newt Gingrich? A cartoon of his face appeared on the cover of the Jan 2 New Yorker magazine:

Newt was Speaker of the House of Representatives back in 1994, when Republicans took over control of Congress from the Democrats. Here’s a blurb from the Wikipedia article about the 1994 Elections:

The point of The New Yorker cover is that Newt is trying to rekindle the magic of 1994, when he was immensely popular within the Republican Party.

The other candidate in the race, Rick Perry, had been doing quite well in national polls, with over 30% of the Republican vote back in September…
(see the graph below from Real Clear Politics)

As you can see from the graph, various candidates have had their rise and fall — first Perry, then Cain (who dropped out in the wake of sexual harassment accusations), then Gingrich (The New Yorker‘s cover came out when he was peaking) — but throughout the campaign, Romney has been polling a steady 25% or so. Paul is at an all-time high, and Huntsman has not yet been much of a factor.

We will see what happens when the results come in from New Hampshire on Tuesday night, when the polls close. But now is a good time to start paying attention.

If, as a citizen in your early teens, you don’t know who these six candidates are, it would be worth investing some time to learn a bit about them.

Given the state of the economy, and the usual pattern of the President in the White House getting blamed for the state of the economy, one of these six people has a good shot at winning the 2012 election and becoming President.

For additional context on the 2012 election, see my two earlier posts:

Electing a President (from August 2011) and

Following the Presidential Race (for Middle School Students) (from December 2011).

Update on 1/13/12 — the new cover of The New Yorker shows the path the candidates take around the country, from Iowa to NH to SC to FL and Nevada…


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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One Response to New Hampshire Primary primer (for middle schoolers)

  1. Ben says:

    Another great idea, Steve, thanks for sharing. One of the things that will be interesting for me to watch in the 2012 election is how technology is utilized. I read an interesting piece about how President Obama’s campaign staff is completely overhauling their social media plans for 2012 and how they’re going to be using technology to connect with voters in completely new ways. I think it will be exciting and a great topic for kids in middle and upper grades to explore.

    Great post!

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