As you might guess, I had to stay up past my bedtime last night but it was worth it. The finish in New Hampshire was a feast for those who have to deal with the often tedious mechanics of political campaigns on a daily basis, if only because there were surprises galore, with even the correct assumptions having a bit of a twist to them. New Hampshire has a reputation for shaking things up and they didn’t disappoint. But before we all pack up our virtual bags and head for warmer climates, let’s take a quick look at how the landscape shifted in the past twelve hours.
I’d rather start with the Democrats this morning because it’s a somewhat shorter story. What can we say about Hillary Clinton’s dismal performance in the Granite State? It’s being called a disaster and a crushing loss, among other things. No argument there on my part. Clinton was soundly rejected by what was essentially a two to one margin, but we need to keep in mind that she was only rejected in New Hampshire.
Even with all the Feel the Bern hype, we still don’t know if Sanders is just the boxer who got in a couple of lucky punches in the opening round. Dan Balz at the Washington Post points out that Clinton has some insurance baked into the cake in the next dozen or so races.
But Nevada is a small-scale contest compared with what comes after that — the Feb. 27 primary in South Carolina. Clinton’s strength and Sanders’s weakness are among African American voters, who make up half or more of the Democratic electorate in the Palmetto State. There will be much on the line for both campaigns in South Carolina, but especially for Sanders’s.
After that comes Super Tuesday, the March 1 round of roughly a dozen contests, many but not all concentrated in the South. Sanders sees opportunities in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Massachusetts, along with targeted congressional districts in many of the other states.
Last night one Clinton aide sent out a note saying that the Democratic primary would be decided in March, not February. That’s about as close as they’ve come to acknowledging that Sanders even exists in the larger general election picture. And that’s not some form of delusional insanity. Sanders still has to prove that he’s viable outside the state that he’s virtually lived in since last summer. If an obscene amount of money flows into his coffers today, staffers show up in the next 15 primary states in large numbers and the polls (particularly among minority voters) begin to bend significantly by this coming weekend, I might start getting my hopes up. If not, Bernie may quickly go back onto the back burner until such time as Clinton is indicted for something.
As to the GOP race, it was a dream night for Donald Trump, but I don’t think we know much else beyond that despite all the hype being sent around today. But whether you’re a Trump fan or not, as I noted last night on Twitter, this headline at the Huffington Post has to make any conservative smile if only for the apoplectic spasms currently sending the Left to the fainting couches.
Donald is currently leading in both South Carolina and Nevada by generous margins and his team is learning more and more tricks every day. New Hampshire voters, both among registered Republicans and independents, didn’t have any problem with Trump’s style and tactics. If that carries over through the beginning of March he’s going to be very hard to catch, even if this breaks down to a three man race.
The other Yuge winner last night was Ted Cruz. He was expected to fall flat with the finicky, not terribly evangelical voters of New Hampshire, but rather than a 5th place finish he came in third, staying ahead of most of the establishment lane in some tough territory. It’s worth remembering that we’re moving into a huge pack of states which are very rich in those evangelical votes, so Cruz’s fortunes should only rise from here until after Super Tuesday. The guy has one heck of a ground game and can manage retail politics with the best of them.
John Kasich pulled off a miracle and took a strong second place and some delegates. This was possibly the best news in the world for Trump because God only knows where Kasich finds any traction after this. But it keeps him in the race and splits up the establishment money and voters which is just what The Donald needs to keep the coal firing into the boiler of his campaign train. Bush came close enough to stay in the race and even has a few delegates. His pile of cash along with those modest positive gains will keep him around for a while.
But not everyone is staying… or at least they might not be. Several reporters incorrectly blasted out a message saying that Chris Christie had dropped out almost immediately, after manage to kick over Marco’s sand castle and not benefit from the bout. As of this morning he’s officially “looking things over” and will make a decision later. (Personally I think it’s time to call it a day, Governor.) Carly Fiorina is doggedly hanging in there despite barely beating some of the people who had already dropped out of the race. There’s no word from Ben Carson as of this writing. He scored all of 2% last night, but he may be busy picking up some new shirts for South Carolina.
And what about Marco Rubio? The general consensus in media circles seems to focus on the phrase self-destruction. His original plan called for a second place finish in New Hampshire but he took 5th place. Where else is he polling strongly in the next primary states and how many donors are going to want to keep dumping money into this effort after that sort of a beating? He can limp on to the next two races, but he needs yet another miracle to go much further from what I’ve seen.
I have to admit, I enjoyed the New Hampshire campaign a lot more than our adventure in the cornfields of Iowa. Last night has reset the checker board yet again and the candidates are being put through their paces. Nobody is going to be able to coast at this point, (not even Trump) and that makes for a good campaign and a strong candidate when we come out of it.