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Highlights (and lowlights) from 100 years of New Hampshire primaries

From Nixonian tricks to shocking wins, rumored tears to pancake-flipping accidents.

Richard Nixon (center) and Dwight Eisenhower (right) in 1952.
Richard Nixon (center) and Dwight Eisenhower (right) in 1952.(AFP)

1916

> Legislation establishing the presidential primary in New Hampshire takes effect.

1949

> New Hampshire House Speaker Richard Upton champions legislation letting voters choose presidential candidates — rather than just convention delegates — on primary day.

1952

> A draft campaign for General Dwight Eisenhower, resulting in his New Hampshire victory over Senator Robert Taft, shifts the Republican landscape.

> Estes Kefauver's Democratic win helps discourage President Harry Truman from seeking a second full term.

1956

> When President Eisenhower wants to boot Richard Nixon as his vice president, Nixon fans in New Hampshire engineer a successful vice presidential write-in effort for him. Nixon holds the record for having won the most New Hampshire primaries: 1960, 1968, 1972.

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1964

> Lyndon Johnson has no real opposition in the 1964 Democratic primary, but Robert Kennedy receives a significant number of write-in votes for vice president.

President Lyndon Johnson (right) at a 1964 White House event.
President Lyndon Johnson (right) at a 1964 White House event.(Getty Images)

1967

> George Romney kicks off his presidential campaigning near Lake Winnipesaukee.

> Running against the incumbent president, Lyndon Johnson, Eugene McCarthy wins a remarkable 41 percent of the Democratic primary vote — helping persuade Johnson not to run for reelection.

1972

> Two weeks before the primary, the Manchester Union Leader publishes the infamous "Canuck letter," which implies that Senator Edmund Muskie is bigoted against Americans of French-Canadian descent. Later, the letter is found to be part of a dirty-tricks campaign orchestrated by Richard Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President.

> Muskie holds an emotional press conference outside the old offices of the Union Leader. Did he cry? Or was it snow on his face?

Edmund Muskie in New Hampshire in 1972.
Edmund Muskie in New Hampshire in 1972.

1975

> New Hampshire approves a law requiring the presidential primary be held at least a week before any similar election.

> Introduced to Jimmy Carter, Lloyd Robie, proprietor of Robie's Country Store in Hooksett, famously replies, "Jimmy Who?" Carter goes on to win the primary.

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1976

> Gerald Ford beats Ronald Reagan in the GOP primary, but it's a squeaker. The margin is just 1,587 votes.

Gerald Ford.
Gerald Ford.

1980

> President Jimmy Carter beats primary challenger Edward M. Kennedy despite not campaigning — his so-called Rose Garden strategy. The result shows that Kennedy's challenge is doomed.

1984

> Gary Hart enters an ax-throwing contest in Berlin and hits the bull's-eye. He goes on to beat Walter Mondale in the Democratic primary.

Gary Hart in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1984.
Gary Hart in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1984.(WILSON, Jim GLOBE STAFF)

1987

> In a May press conference in New Hampshire, Gary Hart is asked a question no presidential candidate in America had ever been asked: "Have you ever committed adultery?" He drops out of the Democratic primary that month.

1988

> Outside a GOP debate at Dartmouth College, tennis great Arthur Ashe leads more than 250 activists in protest against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

> George H.W. Bush steals the show at a GOP forum in Concord by pulling a small gun out of his pocket and explaining that he was troubled by the lack of "detectability" of the new weapons.

1991

> A crowd waits patiently at the New Hampshire secretary of state's office for Mario Cuomo to arrive and sign up for the primary on the last day of the filing period for 1992. He never makes it.

Mario Cuomo shown in 1984.
Mario Cuomo shown in 1984.(AP)

1992

> In Concord, Paul Tsongas swims laps in a Speedo in an attempt to prove to voters his battle with cancer is over.

> At the Merrimack Hotel on primary night, Bill Clinton — finishing in second place after a hard-fought campaign — declares himself the "Comeback Kid."

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1996

> Comedian Pat Paulsen, who has run a parody New Hampshire campaign every four years since 1968, goes for it one last time. "Yeah, I'm running for president again," he said in his later years. "Well, it's not a run, really; it's sort of a brisk walk."

Pat Paulsen ran parody campaigns.
Pat Paulsen ran parody campaigns.(pd)

1999

> Vice President Al Gore and former senator Bill Bradley debate at Dartmouth College. Among the lasting images: Gore's unusual choice of a tan suit and cowboy boots, a fashion statement that later becomes the subject of ridicule.

2000

> In the GOP race, candidate Gary Bauer falls off the stage at a pancake-flipping contest in Manchester.

2003

> Joe Lieberman makes clear his loyalty to New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation tradition, moving with his wife to a Manchester apartment during his campaign.

2007

> At a University of New Hampshire debate, Mitt Romney is embarrassed by a question about an ill-chosen comment on the campaign trail, in which he said his sons had served the country by volunteering for his campaign instead of fighting in the war in Iraq.

> In a debate at Dartmouth College, Hillary Clinton insists she's her own woman, not an echo of her husband. "I'm running on my own," she says.

Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in 2007.
Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in 2007.(Win McNamee)

2008

> The primaries behind them, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama get together for a unity meeting in the tiny town of Unity.

2011

> New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner foils Nevada's plan to move up the date of its 2012 Republican caucuses. His strategy: threatening to move the 2012 New Hampshire contest into December 2011. The state's first-in-the-nation status is once again secure.

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2012

> In November, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama appear on a stage together behind the New Hampshire State House, making the case for Obama's second term. A crowd of 14,000 people turn out to hear them. The next night, Election Eve, Mitt Romney rallies in Manchester.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with former President Bill Clinton before speaking at a 2012 campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with former President Bill Clinton before speaking at a 2012 campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire.(AFP/Getty Images)

2015

> Mitt Romney flirts with yet another run for president while supporters of Joe Biden beg him to run, too. In the end, neither man jumps into the 2016 race, leaving fans of both would-be candidates imagining what might have been.

2016

Donald Trump in Windham, New Hampshire.
Donald Trump in Windham, New Hampshire.(Keith Bedford)

> Donald Trump plays to the local crowd in Windham, ridiculing his newest nemeses, the Union Leader and former governor John Sununu.


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