New Hampshire likes to brag that its primary is more important that the Iowa caucus to the presidential election cycle. In 1988, Vice President George H. W. Bush lost the Iowa caucus to Kansas Senator Bob Dole, but Bush won the New Hampshire primary a week later.
“New Hampshire picks presidents, Iowa picks corn” was said by several George H. W. Bush supporters in February 1988, most notably New Hampshire Rep. Judd Gregg (who later became the state’s governor in 1989). It’s not certain if the saying was used in 1984 or for any earlier year’s presidential primary.
13 February 1988, Boston (MA) Herald, “Campaign ‘88 Reporters Notebook,” pg. 6, cols. 1-2:
GOV. John Sununu, a backer of Vice President George Bush, has been telling audiences New Hampshire has to correct Iowa’s mistake, that is, give a win to Vice President George Bush instead of Iowa victor Sen. Robert Dole.
The co-chairman of the Bush campaign in New Hampshire, Rep. Judd Gregg, yesterday added his own touch, saying New Hampshire “picks presidents and it’s fairly obvious Iowa picks corn.”
17 February 1988, Providence (RI) Journal, “Campaign ‘88” by Kevin Sullivan, pg. A1:
Ron Kaufman, one of Bush’s top aides in New Hampshire, said that Bush’s drubbing of Dole showed that “this state picks presidents and Iowa picks corn.”
18 February 1988, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, “New Hampshire sets things straight” by Thomas J. Lee, sec. 1, pg. 12, col. 2:
“New Hampshire will take pleasure to correct Iowa’s mistakes,” Gov. John Sununu said one day as he introduced Vice President George Bush before a partisan crowd. Added Congressman Judd Gregg, another Bush supporter: “New Hampshire picks presidents, Iowa picks corn.”
One year in the life of the New Hampshire presidential primary
By Dayton Duncan
New York, NY: Viking
“Iowa picks corn, but New Hampshire picks presidents.”
16 February 1992, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “New Hampshire is in a whirl as primary nears” by Doug J. Swanson:
Since 1952, no one has won the White House without winning New Hampshire first. “Iowa picks corn, but New Hampshire picks presidents,’ ex-Gov. John Sununu likes to say.
21 January 2000, Baltimore (MD) Sun, “Bradley sees fast-break plan falter in Iowa” by Paul West,” Telegraph, pg. 1A:
“In Iowa, they pick corn. In New Hampshire, we pick presidents.”
Google News Archive
24 January 2004, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “New Hampshire always offer drama” by John Mashek, pg. 19A, col. 1:
WASHINGTON—In New Hampshire, there’s an old political saying: In Iowa, they pick corn; in New Hampshire they pick presidents.
Welcome to the Homeland:
A journey to the rural heart of America’s conservative revolution
By Brian Mann
Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press
“The people of Iowa pick corn, the people of New Hampshire pick presidents,” quipped New Hampshire Governor John Sununu.
New York (NY) Times
In New Hampshire, Some Fret About Too Little, Too Early
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
Published: November 28, 2007
MANCHESTER, N.H., Nov. 27 — At the Merrimack Restaurant on Elm Street, where a mural of past presidential candidates adorns the red brick facade, Maria Saitas is worried. Not only will New Hampshire’s primary be over earlier than ever next year, but the window between the Iowa and New Hampshire contests — a mere five days in early January — will be wincingly brief.
But Mr. Manuel said New Hampshire voters were too independent to be swayed by what happened in Iowa, even if they had less time to make their own decisions. He pointed to a beloved phrase here: “In Iowa they pick corn; in New Hampshire they pick presidents.”