I wrote about what I thought might happen in the New Hampshire primary a few days ago, but enough new stuff has happened to make it worth revisiting.
Who will win the New Hampshire GOP Primary?
And, perhaps more important, who will come in second, third, and fourth?
We know that Donald Trump will win the New Hampshire primary. Polls show him up far above the other candidates, he has been on a modest upward trend since the beginning of the year, and the most recent polls show an abrupt upward swing. He now stands at about 17% above the second place candidates.
New Hampshire seems to like Rubio and Cruz to about equal amounts, but has been showing a preference for the up and coming Rubio over the last week or so. But, Rubio's performance in the GOP debate is widely seen as abysmal, even embarrassing. The most recent polls seem to show a drop in Rubio's share since the debate. It looks like nothing more than a squiggle of the magnitude one expects in such polls, especially with so many candidates, but given the debate, it is quite possible that his support is rapidly declining.
So, even though Rubio's average poll rating over the last several days suggests he is a weak second place contender, I'm going to predict that he does not come in second place. I suspect Kasich and Cruz are tied for that honor, but Cruz has consistently polled ahead of Kasich, and seems to be preferred over other candidates, even Trump, in head to head polls among many New Hampshire voters. In other words, when supporters of Rubio, Kasich, Bush, Christie, and everybody else have their candidates taken away in a hypothetical, they break for Cruz, not Trump.
For this reason, I'm going to predict that Cruz will come in second. The amount of damage suffered by Rubio will determine if he comes in third, or possibly fourth behind Kasich. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, at least until tomorrow night when we find out what actually happened!
Who will win the New Hampshire Democratic Primary?
All the numbers suggest that Sanders will win in New Hampshire, so that is pretty much settled. The question is, by how much. Sanders' lead over clinton has been steadily increasing in the Granite State since mid January, and it was starting to look like he could be way ahead of Clinton. But, as is the case with the GOP race, the last few days has shown a narrowing between the two candidates. The last few polls have them between 17 and 13 points or so apart, with the gap closing.
While everybody thinks their own candidate nailed the New Hampshire debate, the fact is that Clinton may have faired better, or Sanders worse. Sanders produced at least to really bad answers on foreign policy, and Clinton parried questions that has been raised about her fairly effectively. New Hampshire voters tend to keep themselves open until fairly late in the game, it is said, and these factors may influence the outcome.
If the gap closes to 10% or less, that is bad news for the Sanders campaign and good news for the Clinton campaign. If the gap ends up being around 13% plus or minus a few, then the message being sent by New Hampshire would be similar to that sent by Iowa: "You Democrats have two roughly equal candidates, carry on!" If the gap re-widens to beyond 15%, the there is evidence of a Sanders surge. If one take Iowa's message as also meaning "Sanders, previously low in polling, rose quite a bit before the caucus" and New Hampshire says something similar, then that would be a very strong message in favor of Sanders.
(We do not expect equal numbers in New Hampshire because of the modest favorite son effect.)
I think Trump may be blowing his lead. On the strength of his media identity, he's been running his campaign on the cheap. I think he will need a ground game to seal the deal. Cruz is too crazy, Rubio is too robotic, and Jeb! is too pathetic, but someone like Kasich could step in to the space left vacant by Trump's unfavorables.
I missed the debate, but the reviews I saw graded Hillary and Bernie about the same. I have Facebook friends that tend both ways. The Hillbots seem upset, while the BernFeelers seem enthused. From what I read, Bernie got a lot of donations after Iowa. If he's investing it in ground operations he couldn't afford before, he could hang around for a while.
I agree that Trump is not playing the ground game right, and that is why he lost in Iowa (as I predicted) . It will be interesting to see if that plays out in NH
The ground game is more important in a caucus, because it is more exposed to activists. But, NH primary voters also can see the ground game and pay a lot of attention to it, it is said. If Trump is not eating pancakes and kissing babies, they may well blow him off. That adds a real interesting element to what might happen.
The Republican debate wasn't kind to Cruz and Rubio. It drew more attention to Cruz's sanctimonious sleaziness, and Rubio succeeded in making a fool of himself. Rubio's been extremely good at delivering the messages that Republicans want to hear, but he does come across scripted, and in Manchester he was stuck on repeat. The problem is bigger than just talking points. Rubio speaks written rather than spoken English. His English is correct, but not natural. Note, for example, that there are many occasions where Rubio says it is or it has or it does not, where almost all native speakers would use contractions.
Sanders has repeatedly criticized Clinton for her vote on the Iraq war, while emphasizing his own superior judgement. This seems to be his foreign policy Rubiot. When asked about the greatest current threats, his North Korea answer was what one might call a Ben Carson moment. When asked to name his foreign policy advisers, he couldn't name any:
"Asked recently to name his foreign policy advisers, he threw out a few names of people who later said they had barely discussed the issues with him. One of them was Benjamin J. Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser for communications, who said he had given Mr. Sanders some standard briefings, but no advice."
He doesn't even know enough to criticize Clinton for her reaction to the coup in Honduras or her relationship to Uribe in Columbia. He's never mentioned the possible implications of her ties to the Clinton Foundation, and its ties to repressive regimes. Where she represents tainted competence, he stands for uninterested ignorance.
But, NH primary voters also can see the ground game and pay a lot of attention to it, it is said.
Granted, I live in one of the bluest towns in the state, but Sunday morning was the first I saw any evidence of s ground game from a Republican (Jeb, of all people, had canvassers in my neighborhood). All of the Dems, including O'Malley, have been intermittently canvassing the neighborhood since November. There were even a couple of Clinton people in my neighborhood this morning as I was shoveling the driveway (about 0730),
My party affiliation had been undeclared before today, but when I voted this morning in the Democratic primary, I skipped the table where you can reclaim your unaffiliated status. The aggravation I've been getting from being on Republican mailing and phone lists is no longer worth it. I feel like I would need a hazmat suit to vote in the R primary, and I don't own one.