For all the poetry and prose devoted to the retail nature, measured thoughtfulness, and quant New England intellectualism of the New Hampshire Primary, the subconscious drivers of the Granite State’s behavior are blind contrarianism and regional favoritism. New Hampshire voters simply hate the idea of echoing Iowa’s results. They would rather demonstrate just how much more they know about politics than the rest of the country. They want to show that they cannot be bought by a marketing campaign or told how to vote by the political elite. New Hampshire, simply put, is the Hipster Primary.
The Country: You were right New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton really should be President.
New Hampshire: I like Hillary, totes, but in a nostalgic way. Like the first Arcade Fire album. Ever since she went on her world tour as Secretary of State, I can’t even.
The Country: What?
New Hampshire: Yeah man, I like Bernie now. Have you heard of Bernie Sanders? Probably not. He’s like that crazed unpasteurized goat cheese guy at your local farmers market that thinks everything is a conspiracy. Did you know he released a socialist spoken-word folk album in the 80’s? He also just kind of hates large complicated amorphous or integrated anything, which is why I opened my nanobrewery and ride a bicycle that shuns even moderate innovations in technology, like gears.
Bernie is going to blow the socks off Hillary in the Granite State, but it matters by how much. If Senator Sanders can win by 20%, he will drive Secretary Clinton’s total down into the 30’s (First Objective). A few percent more and Bernie will break into the 60’s (Second Objective). A 57 to 41 victory has the appearance of a solid win for Sanders, but a 60 to 38 spread looks like a bloodbath. The optics of the latter is that of a 2/3 to 1/3 advantage, and could build the perception of momentum for Sanders going into Nevada, South Carolina, and Super Tuesday. If Bernie edges into the 60’s early in the evening, expect CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to say, “Look at this, Sanders is almost doubling Clinton’s totals.” Because wolves can’t do math.
Strafford County on the border with Maine will be our bellwether. Comprising 9% of the New Hampshire electorate, Strafford reliably matches the 1st and 2nd place finishers statewide for both Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.
Donald Trump will have his second shot at actually winning something and he’ll have better demographics on his side than Iowa. Incredibly, despite leading nationally and in New Hampshire among registered Republicans, Trump is not absorbing an all out assault from every other GOP candidate. Rather, the remaining field is mobbing Marco Rubio, who received the biggest Iowa bump and is trying to consolidate the GOP center. More concerning than anything, Rubio’s poor debate performance in New Hampshire showed the potency of a Bush / Christie alliance.
Bush, witty but weak wristed, and Christie, as deferential and majestic as a drunk driving a snowplow to Van Halen on high volume, easily undid Rubio’s strength of staying on message when pressed. Rubio appeared inanimate and unoriginal, unsure how to deflect the fire and ice combination of attacks. New Hampshire distributes delegates proportionally, but only to candidates that receive at least 10% of the vote. Trump will clear that bar with ease, but Rubio, Cruz, Bush, and Kasich are each capable of landing 10%, or not. Cruz is a demagogue that won’t play very well in New England and Kasich is too moderate to compete on Super Tuesday, but Bush is a real contender to unseat Rubio as the establishment candidate. Rubio almost needs to finish at least second in New Hampshire, but losing to Bush would be a mortal wound.