Over 100 Stops, Barely a Blip in Polls: Presidential Candidates With the Most New Hampshire Visits Fail to Connect

The candidates who have spent the most time in the state are faring poorly in the polls

There's a saying in New Hampshire that you don't decide who to vote for in the presidential primary until you've met the candidates at least three times.

But based on necn's 2016 New Hampshire Primary Candidate Tracker, it appears that spending a lot of time with Granite State voters isn't necessarily a good thing.

More often than not, the New Hampshire Primary has accurately predicted the party's nominee. Even when it hasn't, it has helped shape the race, often propelling lesser known candidates to frontrunner status.

But that may be changing, even as some candidates invest huge chunks of their time in the state.

"Since 2012, the national debates have kind of changed a bit the role of early caucuses," said Patrick Griffin of Purple Strategies New England, a former Bush family advisor. "There's been an incredible nationalization of the campaigns. People in New Hampshire are making up their minds based on debate performance. They're making their minds up without necessarily meeting a candidate."

The three Republican candidates who have made the most stops in New Hampshire so far — Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie and George Pataki — are all polling near the bottom of the field in the state. Graham and Pataki received 1 percent or less in two recent polls conducted by NBC and WMUR, while Christie was between 5 and 7 percent.

Only Carly Fiorina — who has made the fourth most stops in the state with 80 — is in the top five in recent polls. She was in second place in both recent polls.

Donald Trump, who is leading the polls, made his 20th stop in New Hampshire on Monday. Only Rick Santorum (17) and Mike Huckabee (9) have spent less time in the state.

On the Democratic side, the same appears to hold true. Martin O'Malley has made the most stops in New Hampshire, at 54, followed by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at 42.

O'Malley is polling at just 2 percent in the state — way behind both Sanders and Clinton.

[[302756881, C]]

"Putting in hours and days is no guarantee it's going to translate into increased poll numbers," said Dean Spiliotes, a Southern New Hampshire University political scientist. "Back in 2004, Joe Lieberman basically moved to Manchester and it didn't make a difference. It can help, but it's no guarantee. It's not a silver bullet for getting traction in the polls."

Some candidates still seem think the state is worth visit after visit before the primary, to be held at some point in February and traditionally the very first in the nation – a huge feather in a would-be president's cap.

necn's candidate tracker compiles campaign visits collected from media reports, candidate schedules and plans confirmed by the station. This analysis tracks visits scheduled through Friday, Oct. 16.

Spiliotes agrees with Griffin that the nationalization of presidential campaigns has changed New Hampshire's role to some extent. With the growth of the Internet and social media, it's become easier than ever before for voters to get access to the candidates.

[NATL] Top News Photos: Pope Visits Japan, and More

"I think technology, social media and campaign finance has renationalized the primaries at some level," he said. "You can be a frontrunner, get traction and have movement in the polls with retail politics, or less so. There are all these virtual ways that are still quite intimate — cell phone, iPad — there's a very direct connection with the candidate.

"I was on vacation overseas in August in a pretty remote area," Spiliotes added. "I popped on to Twitter and saw 'Coming up next - John Kasich at the Iowa State Fair.' I watched it in real time, no different than if I was sitting in New Hampshire."

Still, Griffin thinks there's still plenty of time for New Hampshire voters to reverse that trend.

Given time, he thinks Trump will fall in the polls, making room for those candidates who have carefully cultivated New Hampshire voters, "the candidates of second looks," as he calls them. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and even Ted Cruz are all examples of people he thinks could still climb to the top of the heap.

"Usually as you get closer, people in New Hampshire will do what they're supposed to do," Griffin said. "I don't think this is over. I think people are still shopping."

Nelson Hsu and Asher Klein contributed research for this story.

Contact Us