Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What Does "Winning" New Hampshire Look Like

Primaries - especially the small early ones - are really about perception.  While the goal of primaries is to rack up delegates, the real goal is to force competitors out of the race.  Iowa winnowed the field and New Hampshire should do the same.

So what does "winning" in NH look like to each candidate?

On the Dem side, the result is a foregone conclusion.  Sanders will win. The question is what will the margin be?  And since NH is an open primary, will any Dems cross lines to vote, knowing that their primary is effectively decided?  Sanders has anywhere from a 9 to 26 point lead.  That's a huge variance.  But I'll split the baby and say that the over/under is 15%.  Sanders bests that, it's a big win.  Clinton bests that, she can take a moral victory.

The Republican side is more confusing.

Trump absolutely, positively has to win, and do so by more than 10%.  Frankly, you could make a case for 15%.  But the wife was at a Trump rally last night with her students, and there seems to be a fair amount "I've come to see the circus" rather than hardcore support.  So let's say 10% win.

Second place is where the contest is, and it looks wide open.  There are four candidates within spitting distance of each other: Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and Bush.  But Christie is seeing some movement in his direction, so let's include him.  Carson and Fiorina are toast.

Rubio, Kasich, Bush and Christie are all competing for the same votes: the Yankee Republican.  In other words: Not Crazy People.  If any one of those guys wins over the other two by more than 5%, that's immensely important for them.  Someone has to be the Main Street Republican, and it will come down to winnowing out the other guys to consolidate their support around a single candidate.  The problem the GOP has is that they haven't been able to rally around a single, doctrinaire conservative candidate, so the Trump/Cruz/Carson freakshow has lingered on.

It looks, however, if none of these guys will break free. Rubio's polling is eroding substantially after his Iowa bump and his disastrous debate performance.  Kasich looks good, but can Kasich win in the South?  Can Christie?  Can Bush win anywhere?

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Ted Cruz.  If the Yankee Republican vote splits four ways, Cruz could sneak into second place in a state where he has no business being competitive.  Nevada and South Carolina are much more amenable to him than New Hampster.

So:  Sanders/Clinton is a 15% over/under.  Trump has to win in double digits.  Cruz needs to come in second or a close third.  One of the governors or Rubio needs to separate from the pack.

Once again, the drama is on the Republican side.

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