Episode 1: The Guardian

For the last four decades, hundreds of the most powerful people in American politics — senators, governors, even a reality TV star — have had to meet one unassuming state bureaucrat on their way to the White House.

This man has built a reputation as "the guardian" of New Hampshire’s most sacred political institution. Some consider him an icon. But others say he’s a problem.

Click here for an episode transcript

Episode photos: (Click and hover for captions)

Video: Then-Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama bows (literally) to New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. (As captured by the Associated Press.)



Episode 2: The DRAGON EGG

Jimmy Carter’s 1976 primary campaign gave New Hampshire one hell of a gift: the state’s best argument for why it deserves the privileged status of having the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

And it also gave a lot of politicos in this state their ticket to power.

Click here for a transcript of this episode

Episode photos: (Click and hover for FULL IMAGES)

Banner image of courtesy Ken Rudin


Episode 3: The Midnight special

A bobblehead doll of Neil Tillotson, the founder of the midnight vote at Dixville Notch, which was purchased from the New Hampshire Historical Society.

A bobblehead doll of Neil Tillotson, the founder of the midnight vote at Dixville Notch, which was purchased from the New Hampshire Historical Society.

Every four years, a caravan of national news networks descends on a remote corner of New Hampshire to broadcast the first results from the first-in-the-nation primary.

What appears on the TV screen usually looks like a slice of Small Town, USA. A picture-perfect image of participatory democracy, complete with a big wooden ballot box and a town moderator with a pocket watch and a big bow tie. A community that takes their civic duty so seriously they rise in the middle of the night to cast their ballots. And maybe (just maybe) a hint of where the election is heading.

The wall-to-wall coverage of Dixville Notch by some major news outlets might lead you to believe that they started this midnight voting tradition, or that their vote is unique, or that it holds greater weight than of the other precincts in New Hampshire.

But there’s more — a lot more — to the story.

More BEHIND-the-scenes tales from Dixville Notch:

An academic perspective on the midnight vote:

In 1980, two Plymouth State University professors teamed up to examine Dixville Notch’s approach to democracy — and the media’s obsession with it. (Produced by Vermont Public Radio and made available by the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.)



Episode 4: The identity crisis

When New Hampshire is up against the wall, when other states are trying to creep up on the first-in-the-nation primary, people here insist we’re special. That no one else can do it like we do.

This episode is about that stranglehold.

For decades, New Hampshire could stand its ground and knock down anybody that tried to steal its prized possession. But how long can a state hold on? Battle lines are being redrawn, and these days, the threats aren’t coming from the usual suspects.

National politics…the media…technology…it’s all changing - and the New Hampshire primary can’t escape it.

episode photos

When Stranglehold’s Lauren Chooljian was a student at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, she had a front row seat to the 2008 New Hampshire primary, as promised in the school’s recruitment effort.

She also joined a group called Protect Our Primary, a campaign that recruited students in an effort to get candidates to help New Hampshire keep its first-in-the-nation status.

(Click the photos to see captions.)


Episode 5: The Weekend

In New Hampshire, presidential politics is kind of like a state sport…and just like football, it can get it a little rough.

In just a few months, voters in New Hampshire will send some presidential candidates limping out of the Granite State and maybe lift others to future victories.

But do New Hampshire voters value that privilege? Do they deserve it? You might be surprised what they had to say.

episode photos

Click the photos in the gallery to see shots from the 2019 New Hampshire Democratic Convention…and photos from season opening football games at New Hampshire high schools.

Convention photos by Allegra Boverman. Football photos by Jason Moon and Annie Ropeik.