2012 Presidential Primaries

As soon as he lost the Republican nomination in 2008, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney began to organize a run for the White House in 2012, and early as August 2009, polling showed Romney leading a potential 2012 field both nationally and here in New Hampshire. Almost two years later, in the spring of 2011 Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico became the first candidate to announce a campaign, followed closely by businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Congressman Ron Paul. Then Romney announced, followed by former Senator Rick Santorum, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, and Ambassador Jon Huntsman soon after.

And as campaigns began, more and more candidates tried to market themselves against their presumptive nominee. Nationally, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum all saw great success only to fall behind Romney again nationally. Locally, however, the race was always Romney’s to lose, never falling behind other candidates in the polls.

As presidential hopefuls pitted themselves against Romney, they first flocked to Iowa and South Carolina, states Romney was not expected to do as well in. While at first this decreased candidates’ turnout in New Hampshire, it provided a unique opportunity for candidates like Buddy Roemer, Jon Huntsman, and former Reagan aide Fred Karger to out-maneuver Romney and win New Hampshire under his nose.

On May 19th, 2011, for example, Huntsman visited Jesse’s Steakhouse in Hanover as the first tour of his presidential run, and received a good showing from Dartmouth community and Hanover in general. Although he was yet to announce, his family was there, acting as if they had already announced.

Similarly, former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer actually declared his campaign from the Hanover Inn. After speaking at Dartmouth as part of the Leading Voices Lecture series Thursday, July 21st, in the Moore Theater in Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center for the Arts, Roemer continued to focus on the same issues of trade. He moved to Manchester soon thereafter.

On October 11th, Dartmouth hosted the seventh debate of the primary, focusing on fiscal policy. The debate was held at the Spaulding Auditorium and began at 7:30, giving candidates all day to visit the Upper Valley beforehand. Huntsman, for example, first attended an open-house event at the Kendal at Dartmouth retirement home. Debate moderator and journalist Charlie Rose stayed at the Hanover Inn, as did Herman Cain.

From four to five, Rockefeller Center hosted an hour-long “meet the campaigns” event for exclusively Dartmouth students to talk one-on-one with campaign staff such as Michael Ellis ’06, a Romney campaign aide who would go on to make Forbes’s 30 under 30 list. Some candidates themselves attended the event, such as former Texas governor Rick Perry, after which he hosted a meet-and-great nearby in Beta Alpha Omega.

The Rockefeller Center hosted one large viewing party in the Leede Arena. EBAs delivered 375 pizzas to this event, where the audience enjoyed performances and brief addresses from students representing campus political groups until the debate began streaming live from Spaulding Auditorium at 8 p.m. Students held up sings saying “Don’t tax me bro” and “Godfather’s Pizza”. Bachmann, Huntsman, and Gingrich attended watch party afterwards.

Democrats, and Libertarians hosted their own viewing parties across campus. Then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz, for example spoke at the Dartmouth Inn before the debate. Similarly, former Reagan aide and presidential candidate Fred Karger visited campus despite not taking part in debate to protest his exclusion.

For a more thorough overview of the evening, [please click here] [Debate Link]

On January 3rd, the day of the Iowa Caucus, Huntsman visited Dartmouth Hitchcock, urging Dartmouth students to research the issues that are most important to them, and get involved in politics as much as possible. He did not mention Iowa, showing that his focus was entirely on New Hampshire.

That evening, Santorum pulled ahead of Romney in Iowa by a margin on thirty-four votes. Both candidates received almost one quarter of the vote, with another fifth going to Congressman Paul. Iowa was a huge win for Santorum, showing that his support in the polls had a real backing to it, and that a candidate campaigning on the ground could still win when pitted against a more nationally-focused campaign. Politicos wondered how real Romney’s support was in New Hampshire. Finally, Huntsman, having campaign very little won less than one percent in Iowa, if he wanted to have any chance going forward, he would have to find it in New Hampshire’s primary.

On January 6th, Fred Karger was the last presidential candidate to visit campus, and sat down with DartBeat, The Dartmouth’s Daily Blog. Grandson of a Dartmouth grad, Karger described his time campaigning as a “coming home experience”. He touted his work on Dartmouth grad Nelson A. Rockefeller’s 1964 and 1968 campaigns. Talking about his experience as the first openly gay major party presidential candidate, he clearly came to persuade young people to not simply vote for him, but to get active and challenge political norms.

On January 10th, one full week after the Iowa Caucuses, New Hampshire held its primaries. When votes were all counted, Romney did win the state with almost forty percent of the vote, trailed by Ron Paul (23%) and Jon Huntsman (17%). In the town of Hanover, Jon Huntsman pulled ahead of Gov. Romney winning 531 votes (39%) to Romney’s 454 (34%) and Paul’s 191 (14%). Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry all received less than ten percent statewide and five percent in Hanover.