That Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire was not a surprise. That he won by so much is. It’s a tremendous shot in the arm for his campaign and a jarring setback for Hillary Clinton.
Keep this in mind: While we and many others have been suggesting for months that Clinton could lose New Hampshire and Iowa (which she very barely won), most of the rest of the country does not follow politics nearly as closely as we do. To these voters, the idea of Clinton losing to Sanders by over 20 points is going to seem shocking. It could lead to some perilous times for the Clinton campaign, which already was rocked by reports of infighting and rumors of potential staff changes even before New Hampshire voted. There may be many Barack Obama campaign veterans working for Clinton, but one thing she couldn’t import from the campaign that beat her eight years ago was its “No Drama Obama” mantra.
Last week, we wrote that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are the favorites to win New Hampshire, and while there have been plenty of fireworks between then and now (Monday afternoon), our overall assessment hasn’t changed. Polling in the New Hampshire primary is often far off the mark — the electorate has a remarkably high number of late-deciders and switchers — but keep this in mind: Trump has appeared strong in New Hampshire for more than half a year. Since mid-July, he has led 72 straight polls, almost all of them showing a double-digit lead. And since early January, Sanders has led 38 straight polls, with most also showing a double-digit lead.
New Hampshire, as usual, will not be inclined to ratify the result of its early-state rival, Iowa. In open seat races, it’s natural for New Hampshire to zag after Iowa zigs: In the modern era of presidential nominations starting in 1972, there have been 16 contested presidential primaries (seven for the Republicans, nine for the Democrats). In only four of those races did the same candidate win both Iowa and New Hampshire: Presidents Gerald Ford (R) and Jimmy Carter (D) won the first two contests against, respectively, Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Ted Kennedy in 1980, and Al Gore and John Kerry won both while cruising to the Democratic nomination in 2000 and 2004.*
As the 2016 presidential race officially begins, both party contests are in a place that we, and many others, did not expect them to be. On the Democratic side, frontrunner Hillary Clinton faces a stern challenge from a stronger-than-expected foe, Bernie Sanders. And the Republicans could be on the verge of nominating Donald Trump. Still, no votes have been cast. Pulling down the curtain on a contest yet to begin is both premature and foolish.
What is there to add about Donald Trump that has not already been said? The political world has moved from disbelieving that he would even follow through and become a candidate, to expecting him to wither on the vine as more conventional choices gained steam, to accepting his nomination as a distinct possibility, to speculating that he will go all the way and defeat Hillary Clinton in November.
The CW on New Year's Day Has Often Been Wrong
Simple maps can teach a lot. Presidential election maps show at a glance where the nation was at four-year intervals beginning in 1824, when popular voting (of a very restricted sort) became established. John Quincy Adams lost that vote but won the White House anyway in the House of Representatives.
Here’s a thought experiment: What if Republicans nominated the 2012 version of Mitt Romney — same fundraising, same baggage, same everything — at their 2016 convention? What sort of odds would that candidate have in 2016?
The Donald Trump Show continues to dominate the airwaves and the polls, and the other candidates seem mere apprentices by comparison.
The billionaire’s appeal is very disproportionately tilted to the blue-collar half of the Republican electorate — many are the old Reagan Democrats who have long since defected from the party of their fathers. Much of the college-educated half of the party, by contrast, views Trump with disdain, but they are fractured and split among the rest of the contenders.
Republican presidential polling leader Donald Trump signed a pledge earlier this year agreeing to support the eventual GOP nominee, but that agreement is certainly not legally unenforceable. If Trump wants to run as a third-party or independent candidate, there’s nothing stopping him. Trump is aware of this: The weekend before Thanksgiving, he retreated to his pre-pledge position, saying that he needs to be “treated fairly” by the GOP in order to rule out an independent bid. Some senior Republicans naturally wonder if the only outcome Trump will regard as fair is his installation as the party nominee.