I wrote about what I thought might happen in the New Hampshire primary a few days ago, but enough new stuff has happened to make it worth revisiting.
Who will win the New Hampshire GOP Primary?
And, perhaps more important, who will come in second, third, and fourth?
We know that Donald Trump will win the New Hampshire primary. Polls show him up far above the other candidates, he has been on a modest upward trend since the beginning of the year, and the most recent polls show an abrupt upward swing. He now stands at about 17% above the second place candidates.
New Hampshire seems to like Rubio and Cruz to about equal amounts, but has been showing a preference for the up and coming Rubio over the last week or so. But, Rubio’s performance in the GOP debate is widely seen as abysmal, even embarrassing. The most recent polls seem to show a drop in Rubio’s share since the debate. It looks like nothing more than a squiggle of the magnitude one expects in such polls, especially with so many candidates, but given the debate, it is quite possible that his support is rapidly declining.
So, even though Rubio’s average poll rating over the last several days suggests he is a weak second place contender, I’m going to predict that he does not come in second place. I suspect Kasich and Cruz are tied for that honor, but Cruz has consistently polled ahead of Kasich, and seems to be preferred over other candidates, even Trump, in head to head polls among many New Hampshire voters. In other words, when supporters of Rubio, Kasich, Bush, Christie, and everybody else have their candidates taken away in a hypothetical, they break for Cruz, not Trump.
For this reason, I’m going to predict that Cruz will come in second. The amount of damage suffered by Rubio will determine if he comes in third, or possibly fourth behind Kasich. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, at least until tomorrow night when we find out what actually happened!
Who will win the New Hampshire Democratic Primary?
All the numbers suggest that Sanders will win in New Hampshire, so that is pretty much settled. The question is, by how much. Sanders’ lead over clinton has been steadily increasing in the Granite State since mid January, and it was starting to look like he could be way ahead of Clinton. But, as is the case with the GOP race, the last few days has shown a narrowing between the two candidates. The last few polls have them between 17 and 13 points or so apart, with the gap closing.
While everybody thinks their own candidate nailed the New Hampshire debate, the fact is that Clinton may have faired better, or Sanders worse. Sanders produced at least to really bad answers on foreign policy, and Clinton parried questions that has been raised about her fairly effectively. New Hampshire voters tend to keep themselves open until fairly late in the game, it is said, and these factors may influence the outcome.
If the gap closes to 10% or less, that is bad news for the Sanders campaign and good news for the Clinton campaign. If the gap ends up being around 13% plus or minus a few, then the message being sent by New Hampshire would be similar to that sent by Iowa: “You Democrats have two roughly equal candidates, carry on!” If the gap re-widens to beyond 15%, the there is evidence of a Sanders surge. If one take Iowa’s message as also meaning “Sanders, previously low in polling, rose quite a bit before the caucus” and New Hampshire says something similar, then that would be a very strong message in favor of Sanders.
(We do not expect equal numbers in New Hampshire because of the modest favorite son effect.)