The New Hampshire Primary
The second primary race of the 2016 cycle took place Tuesday in the northeastern state of New Hampshire. A state with a population of 1.3 million predominantly white citizens with a penchant for low taxes and freedom hosted the first actual primary contest, which means that in contrast with Iowa, the NH-primary awards committed delegates.
Like Iowa, the way to approach the Granite state is through retail politics. Ohio governor John Kasich’s second place is largely attributed to his 22 visits to the state, encompassing 174 stops which included 104 town halls. Kasich’s dark-horse comeback after getting mired in the low single-digits in Iowa is testament to how swiftly the tables can turn in American politics. His common-sense fiscal conservatism tinged with Midwestern pragmatism and message of unification and tolerance made him a less bright star in comparison to firebrands Cruz and Trump and allowed him to fly under the radar. Glenn Thrush of Politico poses the question that he might be a “one-state pony” since he will most likely regress to his Iowa numbers in the next primary state of South Carolina, but concludes that the inflow of cash and momentum Kasich now faces could carry him until he encounters favourable ground again in the primaries of Michigan and his home state of Ohio in early March.
Kasich was not alone in turning the tables, however, and perhaps the most remarkable turnaround, at least in terms of percentages, was offered by Trump as he broke Cruz’s winning streak in beating him by almost 25%, with Trump gaining 35% of the vote and Cruz 11.7%. With the consequent exit of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the results of the NH-primary further solidifies the republican race as between a conservative option in either Cruz or Trump against an establishment option consisting of Rubio, Kasich and Bush with Rubio in the forefront. Rubio’s cataclysmic performance in the debate leading up to the primary may be able to explain why his impressive Iowa showing was replaced with a meager fifth place and 10.6% behind both Bush and Kasich. Rubio’s robotic iteration served to confirm the steely-smiled Florida Senator as overly polished and a product of meticulous grooming by his advisors. New Hampshire and the debate performance is not likely to spell the end for Rubio but in the words of Thrush: “Rubio’s Big Mo is now Micro Mo” meaning that the momentum he could surf on after Iowa has largely diminished. Gazing forward to South Carolina, the contest is more likely to mirror the results of Iowa than New Hampshire, although with Trump at the top. The republican party of the Palmetto state sports a large section of evangelicals which means Cruz and to some extent Rubio will have an edge against Bush and Kasich and in contrast with New Hampshire, only registered republicans are eligible to vote. A significantly more conservative state party and a more sizable influx of immigration means Trump is poised to do very well and indeed he is ahead in most polls. Before Newt Gingrich’s 2012 triumph in the state, the winner of the South Carolina republican primary would eventually become the party’s nominee so expect the contest to carry outsized significance with the candidates.
Even though anticipated, Sanders trouncing of Clinton has instilled panic and intense soul-searching in Hillaryland. Clinton’s financial advantage has shrunk significantly since Iowa and despite still controlling more resources, Sanders groundswell of grass-root support eclipsed the Clinton fundraising machine. Sanders beat Clinton across all demographic categories but most notable and most worrying for the Clinton campaign is his 74% among younger voters and advantage among women 18-29. When Obama eviscerated Clinton and her presumed frontrunnership in Iowa in 2008, her win in New Hampshire breathed vital oxygen into a shell-shocked campaign much like her husband’s surprising second place finish which is accredited for propelling him to the nomination in 1992. As is customary when campaigns are underperforming, the Clinton campaign will most likely shake up the campaign and heads will roll. The Clinton couple has already instructed campaign manager Robby Mook “to enact strategic messaging and staffing shifts” as reported by Politico.
The challenge for both Democratic candidates going into South Carolina is the prospect of a more diverse primary electorate than the homogenous Iowa and New Hampshire. With large Hispanic and African American populations, Sander’s momentum will be tested by his erstwhile troubles with black voters. Clinton’s visit to the overwhelmingly black Flint to deplore the water crisis is indicative of her effort to upstage Sanders and gain a demographic advantage not available earlier. Her husband was dubbed by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison as “the first black president”, so be prepared to see Bill stumping vigorously across the state for his wife. With the 2008 primary contest and its race controversies in mind, the Clinton campaign will be more sensitive in dealing with the black population and face the added advantage of not competing against a black nominee.