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By Jake Berry July 10, 2011

Democrats say Mitt Romney is first Massachusetts politician who failed to win New Hampshire in a generation

Mitt Romney, now competing in his second New Hampshire primary, considers himself more than a neighbor from the south. The former Massachusetts governor, who owns a home on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, likes to think of himself as one of the Granite State’s own. But state Democratic leaders were quick to point out last week that state voters haven’t always returned Romney’s affection.

Speaking with reporters on a June 27, 2011, conference call, Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said Romney, who placed second in the 2008 primary, was the first Bay State politician in decades who failed to win the New Hampshire primary.

"It's important to note that Mitt Romney is the first Massachusetts politician to run for president and not win the New Hampshire primary in a generation," Buckley said. "The people of New Hampshire know him very well."

PolitiFact decided to check the record books.

Prior to Romney’s last run in 2008, the last three Massachusetts politicians to run for the Oval Office all got off to good starts by winning the New Hampshire primary, according to state voting records.

In 2004, John Kerry, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, won the Democratic primary, defeating former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, among other candidates. Twelve years earlier, in 1992, U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas defeated Bill Clinton to win the primary; and four years prior to that, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis won the primary on his way to the 1988 Democratic nomination.

Political analysts say all three Massachusetts residents took advantage of the physical -- and philosophical -- proximity of the two states.

Voters from both states tend to hold common cultural values, political attitudes and histories, according to Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. And, because much of southern New Hampshire, the state’s most populous area, falls within the Boston media market, Granite State voters are often familiar with Massachusetts candidates even before election season begins, added David King, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

But the home court advantage doesn’t help all Massachusetts candidates. Indeed, you need only go back to 1980, when U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy lost his bold bid to unseat President Jimmy Carter.

So it was 28 years between that loss and Romney's. Does that count as "a generation"?

To find out, we asked the experts.

Genealogists across the country don’t have a set definition for the length of a generation, the time between the birth of a parent and that parent’s child. We found a range of answers from  20 to 30 years., a national genealogical website, considers a generation as 25 years; the New England Genealogical Society accepts a generation as 25 to 30 years, and the U.S. Genealogical Society extends it between 20 and 30 years.

"Anywhere between twenty and thirty years seems to be the standard, but there is no hard and fast rule," said Laura Prescott, a Brookline, New Hampshire resident and president of the Association of Professional Genealogists. "It’s something that changes over time, and it’s an inexact science."

Our ruling

Buckley said Romney was the first candidate to lose "in a generation." Buckley is right if you rely on the shorter time period of 20 or 25 years, but he is off if you rely on the 30-year standard. Even so, he wouldn't be that far off, and his underlying point is correct that Romney's 2008 loss was unusual by historical standards. So we find his claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

New Hampshire Secretary of State, "Past Election Results," 2010.

New Hampshire Secretary of State, "Manuals for the General Court," 2010.

Interview with Matt Deighton, public relations specialist for, June 29, 2011

E-mail interview with Rhonda McClure, director of research services for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, June 29, 2011

E-mail interview with Patricia Walls Stamm, education manager of the National Genealogical Society, June 30, 2011

Interview with Andrew Smith, director of University of New Hampshire Survey Center, July 1, 2011

Interview with David King, lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, July 1, 2011

Interview with Donn Devine, genealogical consultant, July 5, 2011

Interview with Laura Prescott, president of the Association of Professional Genealogists, July 5, 2011

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More by Jake Berry

Democrats say Mitt Romney is first Massachusetts politician who failed to win New Hampshire in a generation

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