Iowa they say picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents.  And in fact, that is exactly right.  New Hampshire not only makes presidents, it also rids us of presidents, two in recent history.  And this year it is going to play its traditional mighty role.

Hillary Clinton simply has to survive New Hampshire, but if she does better than expected, as some polls suggest, she will be the “comeback gal” just like Bill was the “comeback kid” in 1992.  For the Republicans, New Hampshire could make or break their candidates.  Before Saturday’s debate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was emerging as the establishment choice against Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.  Then he had a bad New Hampshire debate.  His candidacy could go the way of other New Hampshire debate losers.

How in the world did this little tiny state become so important?  To answer that, you need to go back a century to 1916 when New Hampshire decided to have a presidential primary.

It was not a big deal then.  Party bosses determined the presidential candidates in both parties and the views of New Hampshire voters were of little interest to the bosses.  But New Hampshire persevered.  And it also became a good laboratory for presidential politics.

New Hampshire, like all of New England, was the heartland of the post Civil War Republican Party.  “Waving the bloody shirt” in every election, New England Republicans reminded the voters that theirs was the party of the farmer, the yeoman, the man who went to war and saved the Union.  The Democrats were the party of the rebellious south. New Hampshire was a solidly Republican state.

But the in the 1930s things changed.  Mill towns began voting Democratic, and New Hampshire became something of a two party state.  And suddenly in 1952, its presidential primary really mattered.  Democratic President Harry Truman put his name forward in the New Hampshire primary and to everyone’s shock he lost to Tennessee Democratic Sen. Estes Kefauver.  Soon enough Truman was out of the race for President and New Hampshire voters hammered their first political scalp to the wall.

That year they also got another.  Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio was the overwhelming choice for the 1952 Republican nomination, but supporters of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, then the NATO supreme commander in Paris, entered his name in the New Hampshire primary, and guess what, Ike won a resounding victory; the beginning of the end for Taft and the first step toward the Eisenhower presidency.

Sixteen years later New Hampshire voters put another presidential scalp on their state’s wall when anti-war Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy nearly upset incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire.  Johnson soon withdrew from his re-election race.

New Hampshire also makes presidents, and there is no better example than the 1980 GOP primary.  Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan had badly lost the Iowa caucuses to upstart former UN Ambassador George H. W. Bush (it seems Reagan did not debate his opponents in Iowa, sound familiar?).  So it was onto New Hampshire where Reagan arranged a debate with Bush, who wanted a one on one with Reagan.  On debate night Reagan asked that all the other candidates be on the stage, the moderator, a certain Mr Breen, objected, and tried to take Reagan’s microphone away.  “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green”, Reagan shouted, mispronouncing the moderator’s name but uttering a line for history. Reagan won the debate hands down and the New Hampshire primary in a landslide.

Yes, there are the also rans who won New Hampshire but did not make it to the presidency and here are their names: Republican Leonard Wood in 1920; Republican Harold Stassen in 1948; Democrat Estes Kefauver in 1952 and 1956, Republican Henry Cabot Lodge in 1964, Democrat Gary Hart in 1984, Democrat Paul Tsongas in 1992, Republican Pat Buchanan in 1996, Republican John McCain in 2000, and Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Was the next president of the United States in New Hampshire this past week? Probably, but in today’s world we will need to wait on the other 48 states to be sure.