New Hampshire is rubber, Iowa is glue

The "Iowa bounce" is of dubious reliability in both parties (see previous posts), but Republican voters in New Hampshire seem especially resistant to it. Each of the winners in the past four contested GOP caucuses in Iowa has lost the New Hampshire primary a few days later: George H.W. Bush lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980, Robert Dole lost to George H.W. Bush in 1988, Dole lost to Pat Buchanan in 1996, and George W. Bush lost to John McCain in 2000.


Two sets of New Hampshire cities and towns have been consistently anti-Iowa. One group is the bellwether for how the entire state votes, and it seems to be to the right of Iowa voters. Manchester, Derry, and Merrimack are the largest communities in this category. They voted for tax-cutters Reagan in 1980 and Bush in 1988, social conservative (but not evangelical) Buchanan in 1996, and McCain in 2000 (whose crusade against pork-barrel spending arguably put him to the right of "compassionate conservative" Bush, at least in skinflinty New England).

Another group of communities has always voted against the Iowa winner, but went for Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander rather than Buchanan in 1996. The largest were Bow (outside of Concord), Plymouth (north of Laconia), and North Hampton (on the coast). Since Alexander was perhaps best known for education reform, his New Hampshire base was arguably more moderate than Buchanan’s.

No city or town has consistently voted for the Iowa winner, and only three communities agreed with Iowa three times (backing the first Bush and Dole but not the second Bush): Durham, Lyme, and Waterville Valley. A larger group stood with Iowa in supporting Bush against Reagan in 1980 and Dole against Buchanan in 1996 but broke away to support Bush against Dole in 1988 and McCain against Bush II in 2000. The largest towns in this moderate bloc are Portsmouth, Lebanon, and Rye.

Finally, there are the state’s second and third largest cities, Nashua and Concord. They, too, seem a bit more centrist than the state as a whole in GOP primaries, going for economic conservatives Reagan in 1980 and Bush in 1988 but then moving to social moderates Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2000.