ADDED: Following the GOP primary, there has been another development. In most recent polls, Trump is clearly ahead in New Hampshire, with Marco Rubio a moderately strong second or third. In various polls he is second in most polls (by a few points) and tied in one. Kasich is generally right behind Rubio, with Cruz in third place in a few polls.
Rubio crashed and burned in last night’s debate, according to most observers. And he really did. So, this may be reflected in New Hamsphire with Rubio moving down quite a bit. He crashed in part because Christie skillfully skewered him. I suspect this could bring Cristie’s numbers up a bit. We ight be looking at an order something like this: Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Christie, then Rubio and Bush coming in fourth and fifth. Carson will not do well, and this may be his last primary.
Who will win the GOP primary?
First, let us dispense with the Republicans. (If only it were so easy!)
Trump is so far ahead in the polling that it is impossible to imagine him not winning. He is so far ahead, that if he doesn’t win, the we can expect most of his financial backers to back away and his candidacy to be severely damaged.
Of course, since he is probably his own main financial backer, that will mean that a damaged candidacy will continue to lead the Republican pack for a while. But, really, that is not likely to happen. He is going to win the primary.
The more important question is who will come in second and third. There are actually three candidates that have a good chance of coming in second: Rubio, Cruz, Kasic
h and Bush. (In that order according to FiveThirtyEight’s Polls-Plus forecast). This turns out to be a fairly complicated matter, then, when tying to interpret the meaning of New Hampshire going forward. So, I made a chart:
Who will win the Democratic primary?
This is more interesting at this point. We can see from polling data that Sanders is likely to with the NH primary. But the amount he wins by is going to determine a partial answer to that question of viability for him. Meanwhile, if Clinton does better than expectations, she will win kudos for organization and appeal. If Sanders and Clinton come in about as expected, meaning they both show well but Sanders wins, then New Hampshire will be sending roughly the same message as did Iowa: Dear Democrats, you have two viable candidates. Continue with the primary process.
But what is the number and how far off do the final results have to be before we can say someone did better or worse than expectations?
Looking at just the last ten non-partisan polls (ignoring likely voters vs. not likely, because that is part of the ground game) with all these polls overlapping January 20th or later, the Sanders-Clinton breakdown is 56.3-35.6. There is some O’Malley and undecided in there, so the ratio is more important than the number. So, the expectation for Sanders would be about 60%.
This conforms to the most recent polls, so any recent change (to date) is probably captured here. The total range is close to about 10 points.
So, I would argue, using gut instincts and nothing fancy, that Sanders will meet expectations with a percentage anywhere from 50% up. In other words, any level of win by Sanders meets expectations. If he gets more than 65% that may be meaningful, but since he is a) expected to do well and b) the state (within the party) matches him fairly well, I’m not sure how many points he gets.
Conversely, since we are so often asking the question in terms of insurgent Sanders’ viability, if he loses by only a few points, a signal of concern will be sent to his campaign.
Looking at it from Clinton’s point of view, every percentage point below 40% that she achieves will be a mark against her, showing weakness against the insurgent.
One thing is almost certain. New Hampshire will not be splitting hairs. This will not be close. Most likely the New Hampshire results will conform to the current polling, and the result will be that the hypothesis that Sanders can’t be a viable candidate will not be falsified. I’m wording that in a fairly negative way, i.e., a good win in New Hampshire does not push Sanders viability estimate much at all. That sort of outcome is more likely to happen in relation to South Carolina and Nevada.
Not looking at specific numbers yet, if Sanders does not lose by too much in South Carolina, the hypotheses that he will do poorly among African Americans is not supported. If he wins in South Carolina, that hypothesis is in serious trouble.
In Nevada, if I’m reading things correctly, the outcome is likely to be stark, one or the other candidates winning handily, it can be either one or the other, and it will be a signal as to which candidate labor and unions is breaking for. To me, Nevada may be the most important of the first four races. (Aside from the unlikely scenario of the insurgent losing badly in Iowa or New Hampshire, in terms of meaning.)
The reason I say that Nevada will likely break either one way or the other is that I expect the unions to make a relatively unified decision I just don’t know what that decision will be.