Choices, Choices: Record Number of GOP Candidates in 2016 New Hampshire Primary

The 2016 field of nine active (non-fringe) Republican candidates edges the eight GOPers in 1996 who were still in the race at the time of the New Hampshire primary

donaldtrump20New Hampshire voters have a historic number of choices of bona fide Republican White House hopefuls as they vote in today’s presidential primary election.

Despite eight candidates dropping out of the GOP field over the last five months, the names of nine active (non-fringe) Republican candidates appear on Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary ballot.

That is the largest number of such candidates across the 17-cycles since 1952 when the first primary with candidate voter preference options made its debut.

The previous high water mark was eight active Republican candidates (i.e. those who had not yet suspended their presidential campaigns at the time of the primary) set 20 years ago in 1996.

Bob Dole, Pat Buchanan, Lamar Alexander, Steve Forbes, Dick Lugar, Alan Keyes, Morry Taylor, and Bob Dornan were all still in the race when the Granite State primary was held on February 20th of that year. [Texas U.S. Senator Phil Gramm exited after the Iowa caucuses].

In three other cycles there were seven active Republicans still vying for the nomination who appeared on the New Hampshire primary ballot:

  • 1980: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, John Anderson, John Connally, Howard Baker, Phil Crane, Bob Dole
  • 2008: John McCain, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Duncan Hunter [Note: Alan Keyes was also campaigning at the time of the New Hampshire primary in 2008 but received less than one-tenth of one percent of the vote and was considered a fringe candidate that cycle].
  • 2012: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Buddy Roemer

Prior to 1980, New Hampshire voters had the option of no more than four active non-fringe Republican presidential candidates:

  • 1952 (2*): Robert Taft, Harold Stassen [*Dwight Eisenhower, who won the primary, did not officially launch his presidential bid until nearly three months later on June 4th].
  • 1956 (1): Dwight Eisenhower
  • 1960 (1): Richard Nixon
  • 1964 (4): Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller, Margaret Chase Smith, Harold Stassen [Winner Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. and Richard Nixon both received a substantial number of write-in votes].
  • 1968 (2): Richard Nixon, Harold Stassen [George Romney dropped out less than two weeks before the primary and Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan had yet to enter the race].
  • 1972 (3): Richard Nixon, Pete McCloskey, John Ashbrook
  • 1976 (2): Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan

In 1984 there were technically two Republican candidates of note: Ronald Reagan and Harold Stassen. Stassen, who won 2.0 percent of the vote, was at this point a ‘perennial’ candidate, but is not listed here as a ‘fringe’ candidate due to his political resume of winning three gubernatorial elections.

In 1988, there were six candidates: George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Pat Robertson, Jack Kemp, Pete du Pont, and Harold Stassen.

In 1992, there were three GOPers: George H.W. Bush, Pat Buchanan, and Harold Stassen.

In 2000, five Republicans were still in the race at the time of the New Hampshire primary: George W. Bush, John McCain, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, and Steve Forbes.

The 2004 cycle was the first time since 1960 in which the Republican primary winner (George W. Bush) was not challenged by any non-fringe candidate.

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