New Hampshirites take their role as the first voters in any presidential primary very, very seriously. At a party sponsored by the state GOP to watch the Jan. 28 Republican debate, attendees marked the 100th anniversary of New Hampshire’s primary with a red, white, and blue sheet cake emblazoned with the words “Celebrating FITN”—Twitter parlance for “first in the nation.” Campaign volunteers, party officials, and politicians snacked on brie-and-raspberry phyllo triangles while local surrogates made pitches for their candidates.
They also had their pick of free buttons, signs, and bumper stickers for Kelly Ayotte, the state’s first-term U.S. senator, who is running for reelection in November. In 2010, amid a national Republican wave, she beat her Democratic opponent by 23 points, even as New Hampshire reelected Democrat John Lynch to the governor’s mansion. This year, Ayotte, a fiscal conservative who has reached across party lines to cooperate with Democrats, is crucial to the GOP’s hope of holding on to its four-person Senate majority.