As a native of New Hampshire, I was able to participate in the one thing that keeps my granite-abundant state relevant: The New Hampshire Primary.
The first primary in the country, right after the Iowa caucus, all of the Republican presidential candidates flocked to my home state in an attempt to gain some early momentum. In order to obtain this precious upper hand, the candidates spent huge sums of money trying to woo voters (with Mitt Romney spending almost a million dollars for his eventual win).
At the time of the primary, I was on break from college and was excited to vote for the first time. I entered the gym-turned-polling station and, since I am an independent voter, I needed to register for a ballot. As I approached the registration desk, I was somewhat confused by the presence of two stacks of ballots; one for Republican candidates and the other for Democrats. Curious, I asked the elderly woman at the desk why the Democrats had a stack of ballots when the N.H. primary was designed to determine the Republican candidate. She responded by saying that even though this race meant a lot to the Republican candidates, Democratic voters could still vote for Obama or write in a candidate of their choosing.
Leaning over to get a better look at the Democrat’s ballot, I noticed Obama’s name, as well as a handful of no-name, write-in candidates who clearly stood no chance of defeating him. I then thought to myself, “Why would you vote for Obama when the primary means nothing to his campaign but everything to a Republicans’?”
After the votes had been tallied that night, I thought back to the Democratic ballots that had been arranged on the table. I then looked up the number of votes on the Democratic side, and I was truly stunned. Obama had not spent a day of campaigning in N.H. and had still received 48,970 votes, which effectively put him in third place.
For perspective, Jon Huntsman spent the better part of a year appealing to voters in N.H. and Obama still defeated him by more 7,000 votes.
Granted, Romney still won the state handily, and his status as the Republican candidate of choice only grows stronger with each passing week. However, Obama’s showing in a primary that meant nothing to him begs the question: If he can garner nearly 50,000 votes without even trying, how many can he obtain during a general election when he truly cares about the outcome?
(Matthew Osborn is an intern in Al Arabiya’s Washington, DC bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)