Among the big winners Tuesday night were the pollsters. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders went into New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary with double digit leads over their closest challengers in their respective parties. And that’s the way they emerged. The record-breaking turnout even boosted the winners’ margins.
Going in, the cliff-hanging questions were which Republican challenger would come in second, and by how much could Hillary Clinton whittle down Sanders lead to get a positive message out of New Hampshire as she moved on to South Carolina.
The answers: John Kasich and not at all. Sanders won in all groups, even among women, except those over 65 and those with annual incomes over $200,000. He can expect to find more resistance elsewhere in the country, but there’s something to be said for momentum.
And Trump’s supporters proved that they could also go to the polls and be Trump voters. ( Could it be that losing NH Senate candidate Scott Brown’s statewide GOTV organization made the difference?)
The GOP field is now down two. Chris Christie, mimicking Rudy Giuliani as a presidential candidate (most everything said was subject, verb and 9/11.) has gone back to New Jersey. The irony is that it was Christie’s withering critique of Marco Rubio at last Saturday night’s debate that contributed to his fifth place finish in New Hampshire. Now the question is: where will Christie’s supporters go? to Kasich? Bush? Rubio? With all the surprises of this year’s campaign season, they could even go to second place Ted Cruz, who cleverly managed expectations and is now moving into his sweet spot of Southern primaries.
General election logic might dictate that Republican “establishment” money should coalesce around Kasich, who is nearly out of cash, with an eye to eventually pairing him with a chastened and much improved Marco Rubio as the party’s best combo for winning the White House. But Jeb Bush is still amply funded and seems well enough heeled to go another round or two to see if he can gain traction. So, it looks as if the GOP will still be a multi-candidate race, meaning Trump can continue to do well against a fragmented opposition. And, I fear, Ted Cruz is going to have his numbers grow.
Will the Democratic Party end up running a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist in November? Will Biden supporters entice their man to save the party from a wounded Clinton? Could it really be Trump versus Sanders? Will Michael Bloomberg get into the race? And if he did, could he effectively throw the ultimate decision into the Republican controlled House of Representatives? Are we having fun yet?
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