For a long time, no one became President without first winning the New Hampshire primary. Expressing pride in this fact, New Hampshire citizens feel they are performing a civic duty for the nation. The predictive power of the primary has waned in recent years. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama each became President without winning in New Hampshire. Nevertheless, the primary is still important and a win surely contributes to the critical momentum of a candidate. When Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama in January of 2008, it surely kept her candidacy alive and strong. Barack Obama didn’t win the nomination until the very last primaries on June 3 in South Dakota and Montana. .
My students are working on campaigns and also studying the primary. St. Olaf College has a great offering of off-campus interims. They could have taken other courses such as “Theater in London” or “Literature in the Carribean,” but they chose this one. They will work hard. Max Weber said that politics is the “slow boring of hard boards.” As the students go door-to-door and make phone calls, they will feel slow progress. But they press on; they know that presidential elections are important. They want to get involved and maybe even make a difference.
-- Dan Hofrenning is Professor of Political Science and Director of a new public affairs program at St. Olaf, the Institute for Freedom and Community. He has taught a range of courses in American politics including two courses prior to the New Hampshire primary in 2004 and 2008. He also provides media commentary for a range of print, radio, and television outlets.