In 1992, New Hampshire handed a victory to a struggling Bill Clinton.
Well, it wasn’t a victory, exactly. He finished second.
But it was a surprisingly good finish for a struggling governor from Arkansas – so good that Clinton declared himself “The Comeback Kid.” The nickname stuck as he surged into the White House.
Here in Manchester, people credit his victory to his love of retail politics: handshake after handshake, meal after meal, in places like the Red Arrow Diner, one of the many eateries presidential candidates need to practically live in if they want to win.
But what diners can turn presidential contenders into winners? ABC’s Brad Mielke is finding out by completing the ultimate New Hampshire Diner Tour: five restaurants, across the state, in one day.
Lindy’s in Keene, N.H. - Est. 1961 Lindy’s owners insist that candidates don’t stand a chance of winning the presidency if they don’t pay a visit. Case in point? Hillary Clinton didn’t make the trip in 2008 but then-Senator Barack Obama shook hands with patrons. (Never mind that Clinton actually won New Hampshire, they say.) The building, itself, isn’t actually from the Granite State; it was assembled in New Jersey and then moved to New Hampshire.
MaryAnn’s in Derry, N.H. – Est. 1989 MaryAnn’s has a similar vibe to Jack Rabbit Slims, the 50’s-themed restaurant of "Pulp Fiction" fame. Pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball adorn the walls, and the breakfast menu is three pages long. It's younger than some of the diners on this list, but that hasn’t stopped it from attracting candidates like Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and Chris Christie already this cycle.
Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, N.H. - Est. 1922 New Hampshire’s most ubiquitous campaign stop might seem a little cramped, but the Red Arrow has been welcoming White House hopefuls for decades. The most enthusiastic visitor might have been Bill Clinton, who even went back into the kitchen to meet the cooks. That kitchen, along with the rest of the place, underwent a complete renovation this fall. Now it’s spruced up, just in time for the primary. Owner Carol Lawrence keeps her office just a few blocks away, but you can probably spot her son Tyler working the night shift. As a 24-hour joint, it’s the only diner on this list keeping longer hours than the candidates.
Puritan Backroom in Manchester, N.H. – Est. 1938 The Pappas family has been in the restaurant business since 1917, after moving from Greece to open a small ice cream stand. The restaurant on Daniel Webster Highway opened in 1938 and it draws devotees from all over New England in search of its famous chicken tenders. Co-owner Chris Pappas serves on the state’s executive council, and even though he’s endorsed Hillary Clinton, any hungry candidate is welcome to campaign there.
Tilt’n Diner in Tilton, N.H. – Est. 1992 While the Tilt’n in Tilton (get it?) is the youngest of the crowd, it’s still got some old-world charm. Presidential contenders don’t visit for the scenery; they visit because it’s a convenient stop on the way to vacation-friendly Lake Winnipesaukee. Mitt Romney keeps a house on the lake, and stopped at the Tilt'n during both of his bids. The owners employ the “location, location, location” strategy at their other restaurant, too – the Airport Diner in Manchester serves as a perfect last-minute pit stop for frequent-flier candidates.