The NH primaries are over and with the dust settled, we can get a clearer picture of what the results both indicate and portend.
Following their respective abysmal showings, both Carly Fiorina and NJ Governor Chris Christie have suspended their campaigns. The former made a big early splash in the first GOP debate but then steadily lost traction and became an after-thought in the minds of Hawkeye State conservative voters.
The latter’s descent is far more remarkable. In 2011, Christie was touted as the one Republican who could deny President Obama a second term. But the governor demurred, saying he “was not ready”. It wasn’t long after those words left his lips than the Washington Bridge scandal hit and enveloped several of his political allies and members of his administration. Thinking that he could ride out that storm, Christie threw his hat in the ring in 2015, and began campaigning in Iowa. His reception there was never better than lukewarm. This prompted a shift in focus to NH where, eventually, this brash pol with a hard edge got a key endorsement from the Granite State’s leading conservative newspaper the Manchester Union-Leader. It did no good which led to Christie’s departure from the race. However, before that exit he landed a telling blow that will be covered next.
With the removal of Fiorina and Christie from the race, the following six Republicans were left and are cited here in the order of their NH primary finish: Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Bush, Rubio, and Carson. Each will be considered in reverse order; i.e. worst to first.
Carson, who a few months before the Iowa Caucuses was a conservative darling, subsequently slipped steadily. After NH, it is a wonder that he still has a campaign up and running. Maybe one more dismal finish will send him packing.
Going into the NH primary, Rubio was the target of a hard-hitting attack mounted by Christie who labelled the junior senator from Florida “bubble boy”; i.e. protected by a phalanx of handlers and given to predictable mouthings of well-rehearsed talking points. During the GOP debate just before the vote in NH, Rubio proved his tormentor to be right by saying almost exactly the same thing three times in near-rapid succession. In the midst of these iterations, Christie broke in “There it is….” alluding to his earlier reference to Rubio’s rote performance. It is impossible to know if that “moment” in the debate turned voters away from Rubio. But what is now certain is that he will henceforth have his utterances carefully monitored, not just by voters in subsequent Republican primaries, but by the media as well. (1)
Jeb Bush collected just enough votes to stay in the game. That is something he had planned all along, trusting that after all the primaries were over, he would be the last candidate standing and thus, assured the party’s nomination.
Ted Cruz, managed a respectable third place finish, off his big win in Iowa. NH was never viewed as Cruz territory as it lacks the formidable Iowa evangelical voting bloc that supported the Texas junior senator there.
The surprise of the evening belonged to John Kasich, Ohio’s sitting governor. He has steadily climbed in the polls based on his more reflective and rational debate performances. (2) That demeanor paid off and carried him to second place, albeit well behind the front-runner.
Primadonald bounced back from his second place finish in Iowa to post a whopping double-digit win in NH. The odds are now better than even money that he will be the GOP’s nominee and he has taken that message to the next Republican primary state; South Carolina. But, with the field now narrowed considerably, the real estate mogul can expect more frontal assaults, especially from Cruz and Kasich.
Moving on to the other NH primary, the Democrats handed Bernie Sanders a resounding victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. What was especially notable was the breakdown of who voted for the 74-year old Vermont senator; i.e. he collected a lot of support from women, in particular, younger ones. While a Sanders win in NH was a virtual certainty, the foregoing loss of female backing for HRC was really unanticipated, something that spells trouble for the former Secretary of State. Clinton has vowed to up her game and work hard towards making significant inroads with distaff, college-age progressives. How she fares in the next two Democrat primaries in Nevada and South Carolina will provide some indication as to the effectiveness of those efforts.
- Rubio may well have to master an entire new repertoire of talking points and in a short period of time in order to avoid being repetitive. If anything like what happened to him in that NH debate occurs again, his candidacy will be in deep trouble.
- Questions are already surfacing about just how much trust to vest in Kasich’s more reasonable behavior cited above. The man has a long record dating back to his days in the House, on to his involvement in the failed Lehman Bros. investing firm, and currently to the governorship of OH. If the “reasonable Kasich” is the real Kasich, his history will make that evident. If not, then the man will stand unfrocked as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”; a candidate who is trying to be the anti-Trump when he is nothing of the sort.