NEW HAMPSHIRE SENDS A CROWDED GOP FIELD SOUTH

Let’s put this into historical perspective. Candidates spend over a year campaigning in this first-in-the-nation presidential primary state. They raise millions of dollars to spend it on advertising and a ground game to get-out-the-vote. And in 2016, on the Republican side, an overwhelming number of New Hampshirites went to the polls and picked a never-before-elected billionaire reality TV host as their choice to lead the party.

That’s astounding.

Donald Trump wins New Hampshire GOP Primary

The anger at Washington, D.C., and specifically the national Republican Party, is real. The huge win for Trump in the first primary state is likely not to be his last. There is a message being sent to the establishment that Republican voters are willing to nominate the least-likely candidate – one who they may privately believe cannot win the general election – in order to get back control.

It’s astounding.

I correctly predicted in an earlier post that Ohio Governor John Kasich would place second. He spent most of his time in New Hampshire (even visiting Dixville Notch to ensure a first-midnight win) held over 100 town hall meetings and the hard work paid off. Kasich is a re-elected governor of a state Republicans must win in November and a legitimate candidate. His voice will now be heard on a larger scale.

That said, it’s difficult to see where Kasich goes from here. I covered South Carolina through two presidential elections and can tell you he has no chance of winning there. He will be strongest along the coast – Myrtle Beach and Charleston – but Trump will be stronger. If Kasich and Trump cancel each other out in the Lowcountry and Grand Strand, Ted Cruz will dominate in the upstate and win. Kasich will not win Nevada, three days after South Carolina, and he will be nearly invisible on March 1st, when twelve states – mostly in the south – vote. I suppose Kasich could put all his eggs in the Midwest basket, but by the time the GOP gets there, he could be largely forgotten. And where Michigan stood as a firewall for both John McCain and Mitt Romney in the last two elections, I don’t see where the governor from Ohio has any edge there. True, you can pick up delegates along the way, but not near enough to offset those being won by the first-placers.

Ted Cruz, however, after winning Iowa and placing third in New Hampshire is in great position, holding a gold primary schedule. The states coming up soon are good for him. He could have many victories, beginning in South Carolina with help from Bob Jones University and evangelicals in Greenville, to a basket full of delegates on March 1st. The word “winner” is going to be associated with Cruz as he dominates in the upcoming evangelical primaries, and he is firmly locked in as the one to beat at this point.

Jeb! Bush staked everything on New Hampshire, spent millions and millions, and ended with less votes than Kasich. Hard to spin that as a victory. Like Kasich, looking at the map, it’s hard to see where Bush actually wins a state. There’s even a chance he could place third in Florida. Jeb! can drop the exclamation point because it’s not going to be exciting for him from here on out.

Marco. Oh, Marco. If you don’t think political debates matter anymore, just see Trump and Marco Rubio. Trump was leading in Iowa until he skipped a debate and he lost. Rubio had huge momentum after Iowa, but his debate performance was so awful New Hampshire voters abandoned him. Debates do matter especially this year when so many voters remain lukewarm on the candidates.

Rubio’s road map post-New Hampshire doesn’t look much brighter. At some point his contributors will expect him to win. Anywhere. And I’m hard pressed to see where that will be. Certainly not in South Carolina, and maybe nowhere in the south (even his home state of Florida, where Trump runs strong). Rubio had his moment and dropped it. He still comes from the biggest battleground state, and has the most charisma, but he may not get that momentum back.

Chris Christie is finished. If a New Jersey governor can’t place in the top three in New Hampshire he has no business running. His votes moving forward will be split between Kasich and Bush.

Carly Fiorina is finished. Her hope now is to endorse the winning horse and hope for a cabinet position.

Ben Carson is finished, although he may still be on stage and not know it. If I’m Trump I’m on the phone tonight asking for Carson’s endorsement promising everything for it. Trump/Carson uniting against Cruz would be even more heartburn for the establishment GOP. They are the big losers in all this. There had been hope Rubio could emerge after New Hampshire as the third legitimate candidate next to Cruz and Trump. That didn’t happen. So this race, for now, appears to be a Trump – Cruz showdown and no one saw that coming a few months ago.

 

Sen Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire Democratic Primary

On the Democratic side, it was an impressive win for Sen Bernie Sanders with almost a 2-1 trouncing over the former Sen from New York Hillary Clinton. That said, Sanders, from neighboring Vermont, is as well known to New Hampshire voters as snow in February. I think we’ll learn more about his appeal as we move to non-New England primary states.

For Clinton, it’s a wake up call. Expect some campaign turnover soon. Her inability to relate to millennials, especially young women, is almost shocking. At some point, Hillary Clinton, on the verge of becoming the nations first woman president, became another political dinosaur. She needs a makeover…and fast. The calendar still favors her as the nominee, but like the ’08 fight, this could slug on for months.

 

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