Posted by Curt on 10 February, 2016 at 11:21 am. 11 comments already!


Jeremy Carl:

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.

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