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May 03. 2011 12:30PM

2000: A record turnout sends a message

A record turnout in New Hampshire’s Presidential Primary in 2000 cemented Granite State voters’ reputation for independence and an appreciation for straight talk from the crowd of Presidential contenders.

The New Hampshire vote again shook up the Republican field, giving U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona a landslide win (48 to 30 percent) over Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who later went on to become the Republican nominee and gain the White House. Steve Forbes came in third, followed by Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer with a fraction of the Republican vote.

Democrats gave Al Gore the nod over former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, 50 percent to 46 percent, hardly a strong showing for the Vice President, who struggled against Bush in the fall and then had to contend with the historic election challenge in Florida.

The record 393,245 people who cast ballots in the nation’s leadoff primary earned renewed respect from political commentators and media observers.

National reporters frequently used such words as “independent” and “maverick” to describe New Hampshire voters, who have a long tradition of putting a perceived front-runner in his place.

“In an era of slick sound bites and big-money campaigns, New Hampshire voters showed that straight talk and an image of integrity are forces to be reckoned with in this year’s Presidential election,” the San Francisco Chronicle concluded the day after the election.

Voter attention to the issues was further enhanced by McCain, whose campaign bypassed the Iowa caucuses to focus nearly full time in New Hampshire. His “Straight Talk Express” bus tour of the state resulted in more than 100 town meetings, where he met more than 60,000 people.

“Seduced by candor, independence and relentless flesh-pressing, voters in this hard-to-impress state richly honored John McCain and their own maverick tradition,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

In a political season that intially debated the relevance of the Granite State primary, the Boston Globe’s post-election editorial declared that New Hampshire deserves to remain first. “The biggest winner yesterday was the New Hampshire primary itself, which proved once again that it performs well as the nation’s ear.”


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