Saturday

July 22nd, 2017

Insight

From steadfast Iowa to contrarian New Hampshire

Albert Hunt

By Albert Hunt

Published Feb. 2, 2016

Strong showings in the Iowa caucuses by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio sent them roaring into next week's Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire with a head of steam at the expense of a deflated Donald Trump.

On the Democratic side, the virtual tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders puts intense pressure on Clinton to rebound in New Hampshire and foreshadows a protracted struggle in a race she expected to dominate.

New Hampshire is renowned for its independence and contrarian voting habits and anything can happen there. Trump and Sanders enjoy big polling leads that they now need to turn into New Hampshire victories. That will be a test of whether Sanders can retain the enthusiasm of his youthful supporters, and whether Trump fans still consider him a winner after losing the first contest of the 2016 campaign.

Rubio didn't win Iowa but he was a big a winner there. His third-place finish was closer than polls predicted and he almost caught Trump. His challenge now is to persuade mainstream Republican voters to coalesce behind his candidacy to foil the self-styled outsiders Cruz and Trump. To do that he'll need a strong showing in New Hampshire against Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie -- three other mainstream Republicans who are competing vigorously in the Granite State.

New Hampshire comebacks are not unusual. Clinton staged one after Barack Obama beat her in Iowa eight years ago. Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1988 scored critical New Hampshire wins after losing Iowa.

Of course Clinton's New Hampshire victory in 2008 wasn't enough to propel her to victory over Obama for the nomination. This time she's counting on strong organizations and well- financed campaigns in later contests to overcome the unexpected early success of Sanders, a senator from Vermont.

New Hampshire's outcome is hard to predict because about 40 percent of its voters are independents who are allowed to decide on primary day whether to vote in either party's contest. A candidate who scores big with these voters can spring a surprise. And surprise has already been the story of this campaign, in which little has played out as expected. On the Republican side there are several huge question marks, in addition to the overriding one of Trump's durability:

Can Rubio, the Florida senator, get a bounce from his strong Iowa finish and thereby crowd out the other mainstream contenders? He will be the focus of a lot of fire from rivals over the next few days to prevent this. If he places first or second in New Hampshire he would become a top contender for the nomination.

Can Kasich, Bush or Christie do well next Tuesday? Each faces virtual elimination otherwise. And each probably has to finish ahead of the other two and Rubio for a plausible pathway to the nomination.

Can Cruz ride his Iowa victory to a respectable showing in New Hampshire, a state he'd been inclined to ignore but now intends to contest? He'd planned to focus instead on South Carolina, where the third G.O.P. contest takes place on Feb. 20 and where conservative voters are more of a force. His campaign manager has predicted that the Texan will prevail there, though polls show Trump ahead. Another factor may be whether Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon who finished a distant fourth in Iowa, stays in the race; he and Cruz compete for evangelical Christian voters.

New Hampshire is likely to winnow out at least three or four candidates. Iowa effectively took out half a dozen, including Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, winners of the last two Republican caucuses there.


Previously:
02/01/15: Bush's journey from front-runner to straggler
01/27/15: Another election, more phony promises on taxes
01/19/15: How Cruz supporters differ from Trump fans
12/23/15: Why Trump and Cruz aren't Forbes or Cain
12/21/15: Speaker Ryan sails through the easy part
11/25/15: As the GOP candidates emerge Hillary's weaknesses will be revealed
11/05/15: OK, candidates: Ask the questions yourselves. Seriously
10/28/15: Imagine an endgame of Cruz vs. Rubio
10/26/15:Ted Cruz has a Ben Carson problem in Iowa
10/20/15: Will Paul Ryan follow James Polk's playbook?
10/20/15: If only Trey Gowdy could meet with Sam Ervin
10/13/15: Voters don't like revisiting the trials and tribulations of Clintonland --- but that doesn't mean Hillary can't win
09/23/15: Why Jimmy Carter couldn't win the South today
09/17/15: Gov. John Kasich's standout record in Ohio
09/03/15: Republicans chart 4 paths to stopping Trump
08/31/15: Here's how Biden-Warren sort of makes sense
08/28/15:Trump upends New Hampshire's substantive tradition
08/26/15:Jeb Bush is hugging the wrong president George
08/24/15: Underestimating Ted Cruz? That's a mistake
08/19/15: US holds steady in a world of economic trouble
08/12/15: Who will capture Iowa conservatives after Trump?
08/10/15: Debate fireworks that won’t make much impact
07/29/15: A plea for conservatives to speak from the heart
07/09/15: Ex-Im Bank's undeserved rap for crony capitalism
06/24/15: All presidential candidates should be in debates
06/03/15: Foreign policy traps await Republicans and Hillary
06/01/15: It's small stuff that wrecks presidential runs
02/04/15: Can Walker be president without a college degree?

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Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was formerly the executive editor of Bloomberg News, directing coverage of the Washington bureau. Hunt hosts the weekly television show "Political Capital with Al Hunt." In his four decades at the Wall Street Journal, he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor, and wrote the weekly column "Politics & People." Hunt also directed the Journal's polls, was president of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and a board member of the Ottaway community newspapers. He was a panelist on the CNN programs "The Capital Gang" and "Novak, Hunt & Shields." He is co-author of books on U.S. elections by the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution.

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