Bill Clinton was in town the other day and reiterated his support for New Hampshire’s current primary status. Taking the liberty of speaking for his wife as well, he said he opposed adding another caucus or primary between Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s

The people in this state who have any real interest in the political scene need to brace themselves: sooner or later, New Hampshire will be relegated to the political back row where most people think it belongs.

It must have been 20 years ago that I listened to one of the SNL news commentators rant about New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status. To paraphrase, he wondered why the fate of the Union should be left to a bunch of “syrup sucking squirrel watchers?”

It was a good question. And very funny. I think I rolled off the sofa laughing so hard that I hurt my stomach. In any case, that probably wasn’t the first shot over the bow, but there have been many more since then. Call it unrelenting.

The New Hampshire primary works. “Retail politics” has a place in our electoral system. It matters that voters can go to a primary “event” and meet someone like Dick Gephardt or Joe Lieberman drinking a Coke in someone’s backyard along with a grand total of six other voters and ask a question about health care or Iraq and get a response that is not entirely scripted or weenied into a meaningless TV sound bite.

That opportunity means something to me, and it means a great deal to many other voters in this state. I realize that it must seem merely quaint to outsiders, a relic of a political process that started dying the day political consultants realized they could swing more votes via the mass media than by shaking cold New Hampshire hands or kissing our colicky babies.

Like the unrelenting floodwaters that have pounded us this spring and summer, the pinky ring crowd, the media moguls and political consultants will not go away. It is inevitable that the damn will give way and that New Hampshire’s political clout will be washed into the mainstream and be lost forever.

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