Every four years, my friends and business contacts around the country and around the world ask me what it is like to live in the First In the Nation Primary State. Most of the time I talk about how the Primary makes the state a wonderland for citizens that want to engage in a serious conversation about the issues or to have their own brushes with fame. I talk about long town hall meetings and detailed questions about tax and foreign policy issues. I also talk about winning a breakfast with Gary Hart in 1983, when I was 6 (we talked daycare policy), about getting a call from candidate Barack Obama to congratulate me on my wedding day and about getting a 45 minute 1:1 history lesson on public speaking technology and practice from former President Bill Clinton after giving a speech to a gathering of young democrats in Manchester.
However, this cycle we’ve seen a trend continuing that is adding to this story. More than ever, the New Hampshire Primary is turning into more than just a place for launching candidates. It is turning it into a platform for launching ideas and apps.
Evidence of this new role that the Primary is playing in the national political discourse is showing in two ways. The first is the influx of third party groups, like NextGen Climate, Americans for Prosperity and No Labels. Just like candidates see New Hampshire as a platform for working their way into the dialogue via a good showing in the Primary, these groups see New Hampshire as a platform for working their way into the dialogue by getting New Hampshire citizens to make their issues a litmus test for casting their vote. The second is the decision by nonprofits and companies to launch their new engagement strategies and apps here. Much of the micro-targeting technology that powered Obama’s campaign to victory 2008 saw its alpha run in the Primary. More recently, just this past weekend, a well funded San Francisco startup named Brigade chose Manchester, New Hampshire (alongside San Francisco) to launch their new civic engagement app platform. Their view is that traction in Manchester’s mayoral election will lead to statewide traction in the Primary and then national traction in 2016.
Viewing this trend from the seat as a fully engaged citizen and an executive at a digital agency, it is interesting because I see a lot of parallels in the industry events that have evolved into platforms in the past 10 years. SXSW became the platform to launch your brand. TechCrunch became the platform to turn your idea into a company. DreamForce became the platform where your idea becomes conventional wisdom. The Primary has become the platform for political ideas and civic engagement methodologies.
In the case of the New Hampshire Primary, as in each of these other cases, the compounding factors of passionate participants, global media attention, and people, ideas and companies fighting for relevance make these platforms more compelling and attractive than ever.