Today marks thirty years since the 1984 New Hampshire primary. It’s a contest not well remembered today – on the Republican side, President Ronald Reagan was running essentially unopposed, and the man who won the Democratic nomination, Walter Mondale, not only lost the New Hampshire primary, he lost the general election in a landslide.
Around here we choose to remember the ‘84 primary as the event on which we cut our news coverage teeth. Having been on the air for only two and a half years, NHPR (then WEVO, because we had just the one transmitter) embarked on its first night of live election coverage. From humble beginnings…
Our host for the evening (or at least until he ducked out to get pizza and surrendered his hosting duties), Clark Dumont, and in studio analysts, Marty Gross (D-former Mayor of Concord) and Stu Lamprey (R- former house speaker and senate president) welcomed listeners to the broadcast and gave regular updates as precinct reports came in from around the state.
A leading character on the day and referenced throughout the evening was the winter storm that was depressing turnout all over the state. DuMont and Gross described scenes of abandoned streets covered in snow, though it only amounted to a couple of inches. Eugene Van Loan (SoundCloud track 1), then Bedford’s Town Moderator noted how the weather seemed to be keeping folks away from the polls. Van Loan was also impressed by the unprecedented foreign press presence in NH, with news teams spotted around the state from as far away as Japan, Sweden and Rhode Island. You can hear the “My-oh-my-isn’t-this-a-brave-new-world” tone in their voice as they marvel over television’s mini-cams, microwaves and satellites.
After his decisive victory in Iowa the week before, Mondale was riding high in the polls. The field was deep, including two current senators – Gary Hart (CO) and John Glenn (OH) – and one former senator – George McGovern (SD) – and Rev. Jesse Jackson in his first bid for the oval office.
But the eventual outcome seemed in little doubt among those in our studios, with Lamprey declaring a scant seven minutes into the broadcast that Sen. Hart would be the winner. One of our first guests of the evening Rep. Norman D’Amours (2), from NH’s first district explained a few of the factors that Hart had in his favor. Chair of NH Democratic Party George Bruno (3) was surprised by a Boston Globe poll immediately before voting day that put Hart in dead heat with Mondale, but acknowledged that Hart ran a good campaign in the state.
Marie Louise Hancock (4), former State Senator from Concord, also had compliments for Hart’s NH campaign and singled out the campaign manager for recognition, Jeanne Shaheen (5). As the evening wore on it was clear that the labor vote was soft, as was the NEA vote, which Mondale was counting on (having been Vice President when President Carter signed the law creating the US Department of Education).
With enough precincts reporting, it was clear that Hart had accumulated an insurmountable lead, and many of our guests that evening had congratulations for the Hart campaign, including an astonished Dudley Dudley (6). The first woman to sit on the Governor’s Executive Council had words of support for all the women working on the Hart campaign, and made a plug for keeping NH first in the nation.
But it wasn’t all about the democratic candidates on our election night coverage. Though the results from the republican primary were considerably less dramatic – Reagan won about 97-percent of the vote – it didn’t prevent us from giving updates on the race. We also reported on local efforts to write Reagan in on the Democratic ticket. Bob Philbrick (7), Milford Town Moderator, had hopes that his campaign might swing a few democrats who, like him, felt abandoned by the party platform.
Then Dumont spoke with NH’s Representative for the second congressional district, Judd Gregg (8). He was disappointed with Hart’s win, hoping instead that a Mondale win would have meant a clear front-runner and a de facto nominee. But Mondale (9) delivered a concession speech, congratulating Hart and promising supporters the fight would continue; and Jackson gave his by proxy; his wife Jacqueline (10) and his National Campaign Manager Arnold Pinkney (11) spoke on his behalf.
Gary Hart recently spoke with Ken Rudin on his Political Junkie podcast, “I can’t tell you how many living rooms I appeared in and spoke to people about ‘the new ideas’.” (starts about 13:15 in)