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Forget New Hampshire: It’s Still Clinton vs. Trump

A Commentary by Fran Coombs

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, as most polls projected, were the winners of the Republican and Democratic primary battles in New Hampshire, but where their respective parties go from here are two very different stories.

Consider Rasmussen Reports’ latest look at the Republican race nationally which we published on Monday. Trump still holds a double-digit lead over his closest rivals for the nomination. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are in a virtual tie for second place. Ohio Governor John Kasich, the second-place finisher in New Hampshire, earns six percent (6%) of the national GOP vote.

Trump won by a better than two-to-one margin in yesterday’s primary, with Kasich a distant second. Kasich, who came in eighth in the Iowa caucus a week earlier, had focused his early energy on New Hampshire and worked hard for that finish. But with the race moving on to South Carolina and Nevada next and then a mess of other state primaries on March 1, it’s questionable whether Kasich can put together the national effort needed to be competitive in such a short time.

Kasich is sure to get a bounce from his showing in New Hampshire, but he’ll also be in the media glare a lot more, something which clearly hurt Rubio in the week between the voting in Iowa and in New Hampshire.

Look now for Cruz and Rubio, the first and third place winners in Iowa, who basically tied for third place with Jeb Bush in New Hampshire, to show the power of money and organization and rebound in the next few primaries. Bush, the multimillion-dollar man, reportedly spent $36 million in New Hampshire to Cruz’s half-million and Trump’s next-to-nothing, but his super PAC donors have deep, deep pockets. So Jeb’s likely to be in the race as long as his donors are willing.

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Trump remains the wild card. Relying primarily on big rallies, free media coverage and very adroit use of social media, his campaign has become a crusade of sorts for those angry with the powers that be. Criticized at a recent debate for his abrasive campaign rhetoric, he said he gladly welcomed “the mantle of anger.” Considering that 87% of Republicans – and 67% of all voters – are angry at the current policies of the federal government, that seems to be shaping up as pretty good campaign strategy.

Our weekly Trump Change survey has shown for months that most voters expect “The Donald” to be their nominee, so the outcome in New Hampshire is really no surprise.

The GOP establishment and the conservative punditocracy, unhappy with Trump’s populist rhetoric, were hoping to rally behind Rubio as the alternative to the outspoken New York billionaire, but now New Hampshire voters have totally scrambled their search for an antidote to Trump (and Cruz whom they dislike perhaps even more).

Meanwhile, it’s only a matter of time before Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina drop out of the race.

On the Democratic side, yesterday’s winner is highly unlikely to carry that success much further. Rasmussen Reports’ latest survey of the Democratic race shows Hillary Clinton’s support nationally little changed in recent months: She leads Sanders 50% to 32%. Twelve percent (12%) like some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

Sanders will be the media’s flavor of the day for a while longer, but his crushing win in New Hampshire is unlikely to be duplicated in future primaries where Clinton’s sizable organizational and money advantages will begin to take their toll on him. Clinton is also counting on the minority vote, virtually non-existent in Iowa and New Hampshire, to make a big difference for her in the primaries to come.

The Vermont senator has capitalized on the unhappiness of young voters with Clinton who has been a major player on the national stage for 25 years, but even among these voters our surveying finds that he leads by just a few points. Clinton, on the other hand, leads with significant majorities among Democrats 40 and over.

The party’s establishment has made it pretty clear, too, that as far as it is concerned, Clinton is the one. The questionable counting of the Iowa Democratic caucus results is the latest indicator of that. Right now, Clinton also has 362 superdelegates, the votes of party leaders who are free to vote for whomever they choose, already in the bag. Sanders has eight of those superdelegates.

It’s highly unlikely that Democratic leaders, concerned about the coattail effect national candidates can have on Senate races in particular, are going to allow an avowed socialist to win the party’s presidential nomination. They’re not looking for a repeat of George McGovern in 1972, and Bernie Sanders is no Barack Obama.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican turned independent, says he is interested in a third-party run for the presidency, but all he does at this point is break the national tie between Trump and Clinton  and put Trump in the White House. Some believe, however, that Bloomberg is just letting major Democratic donors know that he is available if Clinton’s campaign stumbles against Sanders or if she is indicted for trafficking in classified material over a private e-mail server while secretary of State.

The possibility of that indictment hangs over Clinton’s campaign, although she naturally dismisses it as a concern and Sanders refuses to use it as an issue against her. Most voters still believe it’s likely Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving classified information through a private e-mail server, but they are far less convinced that serious criminal charges will be brought against her by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

Forget the day-after hoopla. It’s still looking like Trump vs. Clinton this November.

Fran Coombs is the managing editor of Rasmussen Reports.

See Other Political Commentaries.

See Other Commentaries by Fran Coombs.

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author at fran.coombs@rasmussenreports.com.

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