The New Hampshire primary is just hours away — but you wouldn’t know it by looking around Hanover, the home of Dartmouth College. One would expect to see a plethora of campaign signs littering the sidewalks, an absurd amount of bumper stickers gracing automobiles, and countless volunteers going door-to-door campaigning for their candidate of choice. But this hasn’t quite come to fruition yet. In fact, although the vast majority of Dartmouth students know the New Hampshire primary is on Tuesday, very few are excited about it.
I can’t help but notice the pictures of New Hampshire primaries of years past adorning the walls of our political science building when I walk past them daily. One sees how the entire campus and community came alive in the run up to the primary. They show Bob Dole, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Bill Bradley participating in old fashioned New Hampshire retail politics right on campus. One of my favorite photos is of Al Gore ‘grip and grinning’ in front of my fraternity house. But the candidates and the excitement captured by these pictures are conspicuously absent from Dartmouth this time around.
I have a couple of explanations for the lack of excitement. First, given that only the Republican primary is competitive this year, it does not appeal to a demographic (college students) that doesn’t normally vote for the GOP. Or the problem could be with the Republican field itself. Many staunch Republicans around the nation are openly groaning about the dearth of Republican candidacies to really motivate them. It also could be the aura of an inevitable Romney coronation that is dampening the mood. Or possibly the date of the primary is the problem — not so long ago, there was a significant amount of time (i.e. generally a month) between the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary instead of the just one week interlude between the two contests in 2012. Personally, I think probably each of these explanations is contributing to the blasé ethos.
Based on the conversations I have had with Hanover locals and veterans of the primary, it is a foregone conclusion Romney will prevail in the primary. The real question is who will come in second (and how close will he be to Romney)? It will also be interesting to see how the outcome of the New Hampshire primary will affect South Carolina’s primary, the next primary on the election docket. If Romney does extremely well in New Hampshire (very likely), his already-rising poll numbers in the palmetto state will continue to surge and give him an advantage in that primary. If this is the case, this election is over due to South Carolina’s uncanny ability to predict who the eventual Republican nominee (they have correctly selected the eventual GOP nominee since 1980). A Romney landslide in New Hampshire on Tuesday will symbolize the beginning of the end of the 2012 Republican primary.
At any rate, for whatever reason, the 2012 New Hampshire Primary is not attracting nearly as much excitement to Dartmouth’s campus as previous New Hampshire’s primaries have. I would be surprised to see more than six people attend the official campus watch party on Tuesday.
Photo Credit: Brave Sir Robin