The night could have gone worse for the GOP establishment—but I’m not really sure how. Not only did Donald Trump win an overwhelming victory in New Hampshire, but the establishment lane of viable candidates got more crowded than it had been going in. And remember that since the current primary calendar was inaugurated in 1976, no GOP nominee has ever emerged without winning Iowa or New Hampshire.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, that means that, if history is a guide, the GOP is likely going to be choosing between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as a nominee, which is enough to have Beltway insiders waking up in cold sweats.
Of course, Trump was the biggest winner of the night with a dominant performance that even slightly outperformed his polls. He won virtually all of New Hampshire’s demographic groups and lapped the field, winning more votes than his top two challengers combined. He took more votes against an impressive eight-candidate field of governors and senators than Hillary Clinton did matched one-on-one against an aging socialist with a total of two congressional endorsements. Trump is still unacceptable to a lot of GOP voters (including no small number of folks here at NRO) but right now, he is clearly the candidate to beat for the GOP nomination. He was helped by the fact that New Hampshire is almost the perfect state for a candidate like Trump, with huge numbers of relatively middle and working-class secular voters. (New Hampshire is the least religious state in the nation). But any way you slice it, his victory is impressive.
The other big winner from tonight was less obvious (except to the betting markets, where his odds of winning the nomination soared once the results became clear) and that was Ted Cruz, who finished a relatively distant third behind Trump and John Kasich (more on Kasich later). The reasons it was a great night for Cruz are not immediately obvious from the raw results (although obviously a third-place finish in New Hampshire against a tough field after winning Iowa is a solid showing). But a deeper dive shows why New Hampshire was in fact a great win for Cruz. First, Cruz spent just 27 days in New Hampshire, about half the number of Bush and Fiorina. Kasich and Christie both spent more than 70 days, and even Rubio was in New Hampshire more than Cruz.
Even more important, Cruz spent very few resources on New Hampshire: less than $1 million combined between the campaign and super PACs. Compare that to Bush, whose combined efforts spent $35 million in New Hampshire, while Christie spent $18 million, Rubio $15 milllion and Kasich $12 million. All of them were beaten by Cruz in a state that was supposed to be a bad fit for him. Cruz enters the South Carolina primary with by far the largest war chest of any GOP candidate in hard campaign dollars and has by far the most extensive grassroots fundraising network to add to that total. Furthermore, he’s the best organized candidate in the coming states in the “SEC Primary” on March 1, and is the only candidate in the field right now who definitely has the resources and organization to compete throughout the primary season. A Southern supporter of Trump’s recently lamented that “Cruz is actually running the perfect [expletive] campaign” and while there are still many roadblocks in his way Cruz’s pathway to the nomination has never looked clearer.
But for both Trump and Cruz, it was what other candidates did just as much as what they did that helped them.
Carson and Fiorina both cratered to dismal performances that effectively eliminated them from serious contention—yet both (as of this writing) say they plan to go on to SC. Furthermore the establishment lane was thrown into upheaval with the surprising second-place finish of John Kasich and the dismal showing of Marco Rubio, whose fifth-place showing, combined with his placing third in Iowa, suddenly has him on the outside looking in.
Carly dropped out today.
Christie dropped out today.
That’s, like 5 or 6% of the vote freed up to go for someone else.
Carly’s supporters won’t vote for HER choice no matter who it is, that just weren’t that into her.
Since no other candidates are dropping out the GOPe vote is still being splintered.
That was originally the actual GOPe strategy.
The splinters would drop out one-by-one until …..Jeb!
But that looks like a total fail of a plan now.
Fox News is now an arm of team Rubio.
Now, what’s the total delegate count?
Bernie earned a big 42 from two states.
Hillary has near 400 when you include her Super Delegates.
Later on we will learn who has all the RNC’s Super Delegates.
Will it be Rubio or Jeb!?
My money’s still on Jeb!
@Nanny G: On this you are correct–Repub. establishment has got it rigged against Trump—They’ll let him yell and pound his chest then pull it out from under him—watch how pissed off he’ll get then—great sport–I predicted Christie would drop after N..H–Think he’ll support fellow Gov.–Kasich
Dems won’t let Bernie get nom,—no matter what
Maybe after they are locked out of their party’s noms. Donald and Bernie can do a Reality T.V. show together,
What should they call it?
If it does get down to Trump vs Cruz, watch the GOPe pivot to Trump.
@Pete: Cruz must get at least 65% of Southern Evangelicals—Trump has somehow phonied up his religious cred—truth be told he’s a NYC heathen’
I understand him getting the mad as hell redneck vote—but Trump and Duck Dynasty??
What I’m saying–Cruz looks weak–Rubio suddenly on life support after that terrible debate.
If Kasich can get all the Govs behind him he might mount a challenge when the Primaries move North
Right now Trump looks good but I think The Party will find a way to stop him with Rubio or Kasich—-or Bush
Bernie earned a big 42 from two states.
Hillary has near 400 from those same two states when you include her Super Delegates.
I think, if Hillary just stays in she will have enough delegates (counting her Supers) to be locked in no matter how poorly she does with the actual voters.
And this is exactly the same as the GOPe has for Jeb!
So, the bottom line question is this:
Will the voters come out and vote for either of those two candidates that they did NOT choose?
I know some will, but wow, it might be one of the lowest turnouts ever.
That’s what the GOP establishment gets for cowering to Obama and the dems. The two best candidates (Perry and Walker) dropped out a long time ago. Carson will drop soon. If Rubio doesn’t get his footing back, he’ll be finished soon too. Jeb had his chance in ’12 but didn’t have the stomach to challenge Obama. Kasich is qualified but is too moderate to win the primaries and doesn’t come across as a fighter which is what voters are looking for and what will be needed against the dem smear machine. If the Libertarian Party wasn’t so disconnected on National Security issues, I’d be looking at Gary Johnson again.
Trump vs. Bernie.
@Nathan Blue: As discussed neither will get their Party’s nom. The fix is in.
The two will however, combine for a highly rated Reality T.V. SHOW. Atrue odd couple better than Randall and Klugman or Lenon and Mattheau
@Nanny G, #5:
Real Clear Politic’s (as if anything were actually clear about politics) poll averages presently show Bush vs. Clinton being a closer match than Clinton vs. Trump. I’m not counting Jeb out. Middle-ground voters might be more comfortable with him than with either Trump or Cruz, while broad enthusiasm for Clinton is lacking. Somebody in the GOP establishment is probably doing complex calculations trying to figure out how to torpedo the two current republican front runners.
The only voters comfortable with a 3rd Bush candidacy are democrats who KNOW he would lose, and GOPe who don’t see a difference between Jeb and Hillary.
The ONLY way Jeb ends up with the nomination is a backroom brokered convention, and if that happens the dems will unfortunately continue their destruction of this country.
Bush and his PACs spent what, $35 million in NH, and still got beaten by Trump, Kasich, and Cruz. There is ZERO grassroots support for Bush, and the GOPe still don’t get the grassroots are completely pissed at the cowardly capitulation the GOPe has repeatedly demonstrated in spite of having control of both houses of Congress.
It sounds like NH will also be decided by a flip of Hillary’s double-headed coin.
Should this happen, I think the base voters of both parties (as well as independents,) will scream bloody murder and protests against the stealing of the primaries by the establishment super-delegates will rock this nation. The establishment will both win, and lose as the public anger turns against the party elites. I find it disgusting that Richard Wheeler gleefully gloats for just such an end, without considering the national repercussions of an extreme, elite oligarchy betrayal of the voter’s will. I am not so confident as he that the public will just STFU and bend over and take it.