In 1918, New Hampshire had a Republican senator, a retiring Democratic senator, two Republican representatives, and Republican Governor Henry W. Keyes, who would be elected senator that year. Today, it has two Democrats in the Senate, two Democratic representatives, and Republican Governor Chris Sununu. New Hampshire is the most recent New England state to give its four electoral votes to a Republican, doing so in the hotly contested 2000 election. Despite having an entirely Democratic delegation at the moment, the state party appears strong: Governor Chris Sununu is popular and is looking at easy reelection in November and both houses of the New Hampshire General Court have a Republican majority. Although on the federal level, the state seems a bluish purple, the Democrats have overall had the least success here. Yet, the state used to be solidly Republican as opposed to competitive. Thus, how did it get competitive?
From the foundation of the Republican Party until 1936, New Hampshire was a fairly reliable Republican state, voting Democratic only in 1912 and 1916. The state was swept up in the support and enthusiasm for FDR in his three reelection bids, but from 1938 to 1960, the state elected only Republicans to federal office. The Democrats got a break in 1962 when the state elected Thomas McIntyre to the Senate, who held the seat until his defeat in 1978. The state did not experience the same immigration that the industrial Northeast had, and even up until the 2000s the state had conservative Republicans representing it on the federal level. Some rightist standouts the Senate has had from the state include George Moses (1918-33), Styles Bridges (1937-61), Norris Cotton (1954-75), Gordon Humphrey (1979-90), and Bob Smith (1990-2003). However, as with the previous five states, there has been one figure who stands out as politically transformative. This politician is unlike the others in a number of ways: still alive, still holding office, and is a woman.
Jeanne Shaheen, Senator, New Hampshire, 2009-.
Jeanne Shaheen made political history in 1996 when she was the first woman to be elected governor in New Hampshire and was reelected twice after. Her popularity as governor helped revitalize the state’s Democratic Party. This showed in 2004, when the state voted for Kerry; in 2006, when the state voted out its two Republican incumbent representatives; and in 2008, when New Hampshire voted Shaheen to the Senate, making her the first woman to be a senator from the state. This influence also showed on the gubernatorial level: since Shaheen’s election in 1996, Republicans have only held the office for four years thus far. By contrast, from the start of the 20th century till Shaheen assumed office in 1997, Democrats only held the post for a total of thirteen years. One popular political figure can change the makeup of a state, and New Hampshire is an example. New Hampshire Democrats were also helped by the fact that the next Democratic governor, John Lynch, was outstandingly popular. Another factor, which has been the case for the other states, is population migration. A significant factor in the state’s population growth is that residents of Massachusetts, a heavily Democratic state, have been moving to New Hampshire. So perhaps it is the descendants of the immigrants to Massachusetts who are now influencing New Hampshire’s politics? That being said, however, Democrats have a lot of work to do to make this state solidly in their column, but they did a good job of making it no longer a solid Republican state.
Conclusion: What Does This All Mean for Today Anyway?
For weary Republicans, New England is a model for the political future of America if immigration is continued to be loose and especially if a comprehensive legalization plan is passed that admits high numbers of ethnic Catholics who heavily trend Democrat. Something to bear in mind with this comparison that I had not mentioned in earlier posts: Catholics were not accepted into the WASP society of old New England, which was a partial motivator for their Democratic Party affiliation. This leaves open the idea that the GOP lacking accommodating views on immigration motivates this Democratic lean. Yet, even with a more politically accommodating approach as adopted by Republican politicians of Massachusetts and Connecticut, the GOP only delayed their eventual long-term minority party status in these states. The Republican Party is in a tough position on immigration today, especially since many legalization candidates are already residing on U.S. soil. The GOP has two choices if history is an indicator: 1. Moderate their politics and delay long-term minority party status, with only occasional “personality” candidates becoming president and doing little to nothing for party building. 2. Remain staunch, fight to prevent a mass wave of legalization, and possibly prevent long-term minority party status, or be hit harder than choice #1.
Ramer, H. (2017, December 27). Domestic Migration Fuels N.H. Population Growth. Associated Press.