New Hampshire voters have long contended that, while Iowa picks corn, they pick Presidents. It is true that, generally speaking, the New Hampshire Primaries have historically been a pretty good indicator of who the two respective general election nominees will be. If this year’s election cycle has taught us anything, however, it is that all conventional wisdom can be thrown out the window. Let’s get down to business and examine what occurred.
While Venezuela teeters on the brink of sovereign debt default, complete and utter economic collapse, and a humanitarian crisis, a self-described Socialist absolutely washed a candidate with the last name “Clinton” by twenty plus points in the New Hampshire Primary. What a time to be alive. Placed within the context of recent electoral history, the outcome is pretty shocking. However, when placed within the context of this absolute anomaly of an election cycle, it isn’t so surprising. The outcome basically just substantiated what polls had been telling us for weeks.
As I stated in the post-Iowa blog, I expect this to be the high point of the Sanders campaign. Clinton is favored to win both Nevada (the next primary) and South Carolina (the following one) by wide margins (don’t get confused, SC is the third GOP primary and Nevada is their fourth, its flipped for the Dems). South Carolina will certainly be an easy Clinton win, while Nevada should be a slightly less easy Clinton win. Sanders simply can’t foster the same support amongst minority voters that Clinton can, making him vulnerable in states that aren’t as white as the Oscars (looking at you, New Hampshire). Minority support is of the utmost salience for any Democratic candidate seeking the presidency. Black voters, for example, support Clinton by 74 points over Sanders according to the most recent PPP national poll. Look for President Obama to endorse Clinton and look for her to carry the momentum into a strong Super Tuesday showing, eventually leading to a smooth path to the nomination. This is what conventional wisdom will tell us (as I mentioned in the previous blog, Bill Clinton lost both Iowa and NH but then rode minority support to victory). However, this is the 2016 election, where a Socialist and a neo-Fascist are garnering more support than many of us ever would have thought possible. I’m going to leave the door open here for anything to happen. Who knows, maybe the wave of Sanders support (including an ABSURD amount of support from young folks) will result in a recreation of the 2008 Clinton collapse at the hands of Barack Obama. Still, though, conventional wisdom posits that Sanders has approximately a 0.00% chance of being the nominee.
Donald Trump blew the competition out of the water in somewhat unsurprising (according to polls) fashion. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, probably the most moderate candidate either party has offered in this election, finished a distant second, while Iowa winner Cruz won a hard fought battle for third, edging Jeb Bush. Marco Rubio was unable to cash in on his Iowa momentum, finishing a disappointing fifth.
Kasich’s second place finish is the interesting story here. For those who consider themselves centrist and pragmatic, the Kasich campaign has been a breath of fresh air in this campaign of extremism. One pundit even posited that Kasich sounded a lot like a Kennedy-era Democrat (which says a lot about the Democratic Party’s leftward shift as well). However, Kasich has devoted the vast majority of his resources to New Hampshire and has little ground game elsewhere, notwithstanding the Midwest. I would be surprised to see Kasich build further momentum in the coming primary states.
The Trump victory, in conjunction with the inability of a single establishment candidate to stand out after the first two primaries, probably has the RNC in a cold sweat. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the establishment candidates have insisted upon fighting amongst themselves as opposed to fighting the two candidates they all hate: Trump and Cruz. Indicative of this phenomenon was the last GOP debate before the NH primary, where Chris Christie dealt a massive body blow to the presumptive establishment favorite, Marco Rubio. While each establishment candidate has called out Trump for his absurdity at some point, nobody, maybe aside from Jeb Bush, has consistently attacked the man who Great Britain hilariously debated banning from their country.
At this point, I honestly don’t see anything stopping the Trump machine. He holds a substantial lead in South Carolina and has truly been untouchable. Don’t get me wrong; the likelihood that he will be the GOP candidate is, and will remain extremely low. However, this primary is setting the stage for what will be a very, very ugly/entertaining Republican nominating convention in July.