In what was a surprise to no one, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders dominated their respective parties’ New Hampshire primaries. Both won by more than his blogger expected. This blogger also screwed up the 3-4-5 order of Republican finishers. This blogger owes you a full refund.
And yet, despite these missteps, nothing from last night was that surprising. We knew Trump and Sanders were going to win big, it was just a matter of by how much. Kasich was headed toward a strong finish and placed second. Then the Rubio, Bush, and Cruz group were clustered together, and they were followed by Christie, Fiorina, then Carson. So much for a New Hampshire surprise.
How will these New Hampshire results affect the rest of February and beyond? I’m glad you asked.
Here are the next two contests for each party, setting up Super Tuesday:
|February 1, 2016||Iowa||44 pledged delegates|
|February 9, 2016||New Hampshire||24|
|February 20, 2016||Nevada||35|
|February 27, 2016||South Carolina||53|
|February 1, 2016||Iowa||27 pledged delegates|
|February 9, 2016||New Hampshire||20|
|February 20, 2016||South Carolina||57|
|February 23, 2016||Nevada||30|
We see that the parties reverse the order of their last two February contests. We now have a ten-day countdown until February 20, when the Democratic Nevada caucuses and Republican South Carolina Primary give us our next set of results.
On the Democratic side, it’ll be very interesting to see the next move from the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. Does Sanders spend most of his time in Nevada so he can get a second state before Super Tuesday while making in-roads with Latinos? Does he focus on South Carolina to try to erode Clinton’s huge support there and make inroads with African Americans? Or, will he divide his attention and risk losing both to the better funded Clinton Campaign, which already has better polling numbers, especially with minorities, in both states? Tough call. For now, he’s headed to New York to raise money from Wall Street. Just kidding — he’s headed to New York to have lunch with Al Sharpton! Here comes a concentrated push for he black vote.
Likewise, team Clinton can run up the score in South Carolina, which would risk losing Nevada but ensure a delegate lead heading into Super Tuesday (note the delegation sizes of the four states). Or, they can go for Nevada to try both states in an effort to win three of the four February contests, but potentially risk losing Nevada and some expectations games in both contests.
Just as fun to follow will be their messages moving forward. I think Clinton should pivot to hitting Sanders on his lack of loyalty to the Democratic Party. (I wrote about this as her best strategy in the past, but she hasn’t listened yet.) Even in Sanders country, if you just tease out registered New Hampshire Democrats, the exit polls show a dead heat at 49 percent a piece. Everywhere else, Democrats will mostly lean toward Clinton. African Americans in particular feel a deep loyalty to the party and Clinton family. Soon will be their chance to show it, and Clinton can bring that out of them by hammering Sanders on his Independent career.
Sanders’s strategy will not change at all. He’s a democratic socialist and proud of it. That’ll be written on his grave, and he’s not going to “pivot” at all just to win an election.
On the Republican side, I think Marco Rubio is once again the headline, but this time for the wrong reason. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The best way to do this is candidate by candidate, counting down in their order of finish from last night.
9. Jim Gilmore — Actually, he finished a lot worse than ninth. Among the people who earned more votes than Gilmore’s 125 (after 89 percent of precincts are counted) last night: Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum (all of whom had dropped out); Richard Witz and Andy Martin (whom I had never heard of); and a guy named Vermin Supreme on the Democratic side. I did not make that up. To help drown his sorrows, ten people showed up to his after-party. It’s time to pack it in, Governor.
8. Ben Carson — We never expected him to do well in New Hampshire. Unlike Gilmore and Fiorina, whom I still expect to drop out soon, I always thought Carson’s last stand would be in South Carolina.
7. Carly Fiorina — Annny time, Carly.
6. Chris Christie — All signs point to him calling it quits in the next couple days, but has this become the second straight election that Chris Christie took down the great Republican hope for the White House?
5. Marco Rubio‘s fifth place finish certainly makes it seem that way. One week ago we were wondering if Rubio would finish second in New Hampshire, force out at least Christie and Kasich, and then dispatch Bush after South Carolina while in the process uniting the Republican establishment and taking the fight to Trump and Cruz. Now? Not so much. Even though he finished just one percent behind third place (as of this morning, it’s Cruz at 11.6, Bush at 11.1, and Rubio at 10.6), the optics of fifth place looks terrible, especially after his soaring week leading up to the debate was bringing him into the high teens. I think we can dispel with the fiction that the field would get winnowed in New Hampshire.
4. Jeb Bush — Bush and Rubio are about to go all “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” on each other. (That’s right, that’s my second Star Trek reference in as many weeks. I apologize to no one.) South Carolina will host an epic struggle between these two Floridians.
3. Ted Cruz — I was right that his consistent polling percentages would get him a solid, low double-digit percentage, but I also thought that would keep him out of the top three. However, Bush, Rubio, and Christie all capped each other to a slightly lower percentage (some slightly lower than others). Not a great percentage, but good enough for third. It’s also a nice result considering Cruz barely tried to win the state, as most of his focus was on Iowa. It’s Bush, Kasich, and Christie that spent so much time here, and Cruz beat two of them. He weathers the moderate state and now heads down to the more comfortable down south.
2. John Kasich — At least I got this one right. Second place for Kasich. But now what? The problem with putting all his chips into a Granite basket is that it’s too heavy to bring with him down south. He has little campaign infrastructure beyond New Hampshire. His months of moderate campaigning and open willingness to work with Democrats won’t do well in the South. That will hurt him not only in South Carolina, but in southern dominated Super Tuesday as well. We can expect Cruz, Bush, and Rubio to zoom by him in the coming weeks. So what is John Kasich’s plan? Simply, try to survive until Ohio, his home state’s March 15 winner-take-all primary. New Hampshire gives him some political oxygen, but now he needs to hold his breath for a few weeks. On Super Tuesday itself, even though all but a few states are southern, there are a few winnable states for him: Massachusetts, Vermont, and Minnesota. Let the other four candidates do battle over the south; if Kasich can focus all his campaign visits and ad buys in those three northern states, he’ll get a few more top three finishes and survive to Ohio. His home state would give him a sizable delegate bump, and by then Bush might be dropping out and his supporters will be looking for the last governor standing. This is an unlikely perfect storm, but this New Hampshire result puts it within the realm of possibility.
1. Donald Trump — I can almost forgive myself for getting 3-4-5 in the wrong order, considering they were separated by one percent, but shame on me for not seeing a 19-point Trump win in the making. After under-performing his Iowa polls by about eight points, he now beat his New Hampshire polls by about four. The man is less predictable than ever!
So how did PPFA do? Not great, not terrible:
In sum, New Hampshire was fun, despite the dud that was the primary itself, but South Carolina will be even better. Both sides will have candidates veer even further from the center. Trump and Cruz will need to out anti-establishment each other, while Bush and Rubio will compete for the mainstream southern conservatives; Clinton, meanwhile, needs to further promote her progressivism as Sanders continues this attack on her left flank. For both parties’ candidates, it feels like they’re about to make themselves less electable in order to win a single state in a primary. Does the door continue to creak open for Michael Bloomberg?
Ah, now I’m really getting ahead of myself.