New Hampshire primary results used to forecast presidents.
Then Bill Clinton came along. He lost to former Sen. Paul Tsongas in 1992, but won the White House.
Clinton showed the primary still can shape history, however. He overcame allegations of marital infidelity to rebound to second place in New Hampshire, embraced the "Comeback Kid" label and went on to become president.
"He lost, but he won," said Corey Lewandowski, state leader of Americans for Prosperity. "That's what brought him back into the race. That's still a win."
Political watchers don't see big surprises coming tomorrow, and expect Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama to claim victory.
Yes, Obama is on the ballot — though his lack of a serious Democrat challenger and a crowded Republican field may have caused some to overlook it.
"The surprise, if there's going to be one, might be on the margin of victory for Romney," said Dayton Duncan, author of "Grass Roots: One Year in the Life of the Presidential Primary."
The margin of victory often matters.
In 1968, Sen. Eugene McCarthy's anti-war candidacy pulled 42 percent in the Democrat primary against President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson won, but soon quit the race.
Four years later, in 1972, Sen. Ed Muskie won the primary on the Democrat side — but not by the margin analysts expected. Muskie ultimately would lose the nomination to Sen. George McGovern.
In 1992, political columnist Patrick Buchanan undermined President George H.W. Bush's re-election bid with a strong second-place showing in New Hampshire.
For decades, either the Republican or Democrat primary winner ended up president.
Since Clinton, New Hampshire's status as a crystal ball on November outcomes has faded. But that's not so true of its lasting influence on the presidential campaign.
In 2008, the primary resurrected the campaign of John McCain and made him "Comeback Kid 2." McCain would lose to Obama, but he earned the Republican nomination.
After Iowa, there's always NH
New Hampshire often has shaken up the field after the Iowa caucuses.
In 1988, it happened on both sides of the ballot.
New Hampshire chose former Gov. Mike Dukakis over Congressman Dick Gephardt in the Democrat contest and Bush over Sen. Bob Dole on the Republican side.
In 2008, New Hampshire Democrats went for Hillary Clinton over Obama.
Duncan saw it happen in 1984 as an aide to Walter Mondale. Mondale won Iowa big, then had to come to New Hampshire.
"We always assumed the threat was John Glenn," Duncan recalled. "We felt we had a good chance; we were going to beat him in New Hampshire."
But it was another senator, Gary Hart, who would defeat Mondale in New Hampshire after a surprise second-place showing in Iowa.
"Gary Hart had done a lot of work in New Hampshire; he had a decent organization," Duncan said. "He toppled the apple cart for Mondale."
The 2012 race for the White House is a unique creature of its own.
"The biggest difference this campaign has been the ability of candidates to surge in the polls and ultimately decline," said Dean Spiliotes, professor of political science at Southern New Hampshire University.
This race has been driven by television and debates, more than campaign infrastructure, Spiliotes said.
"You don't have the grassroots organization, the fundraising," he said. "They don't have a safety net."
National frenzy can hurt N.H.
Derry Republican town chairman Jim Foley saw the nominating calendar, which put the vote just after the holidays, and the large number of nationally televised debates — more than 15 — making this race different.
The debates reduced the traditional retail campaigning, he said.
"The debates are not good for the New Hampshire primary," Foley said.
Democrat strategist Nick Clemons said it's clear the campaign has been waged more on a national stage than in early states.
"The number of debates, the importance put on campaigning in some of the bigger states with bigger delegate prizes, it definitely seemed as though less time was spent in Iowa and New Hampshire," Clemons said.
University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala thinks the Romney factor has made it different.
"This hasn't been the most exciting primary season," Scala said. "The presence of a backyard candidate has had a dampening effect on the whole thing until recently."
The primary lacked an "open field battle," in Scala's view, due to the face other candidates hesitated to go all in because of Romney and his resources.
Romney not only is a former Massachusetts governor, he has a summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee and many ties to New Hampshire from his 2008 campaign. Polls put him far ahead of his rivals throughout the campaign.
"New Hampshire has a significant role because of the type of campaign. It's not media focused," Lewandowski said. "In New Hampshire, it is about who is the best organized, who puts in the work and money. Mitt Romney has done that. He has built an organization, methodically."
So this time the real battle raged elsewhere.
"That's why Iowa was a free-for-all," Scala said.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. did go all in here, but his poll numbers haven't shown him breaking out against Romney.
"He basically boxed himself in, in terms of his appeal," Scala said. "If you'd like a kinder, gentler, civil, more bipartisan Romney, I'm your guy."
Huntsman appealed to moderate, liberal Republicans, Republicans who had defected to Obama and wanted to come back home, as well as independents, Scala said.
"Huntsman reached out for those folks," he said, "but there are only so many of them."
The waiting game, then, is for how Romney will do with those final numbers and who among Sen. Rick Santorum, Congressman Ron Paul, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Huntsman will fare well in the down-the-ballot game.
"I think the story will be that, much like God, New Hampshire helps those who help themselves," said Travis Blais, Windham town Republican chairman. "You can't expect New Hampshire to save you for no other reason than you spent a lot of time here."
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