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Scott MacKay's New Hampshire Primary Analysis

Published
The only sure element of the 2016 presidential sweepstakes, in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary , is that both Democrats and Republicans now ...

Republican Donald Trump speaks at the New Hampshire primary.

The only sure element of the 2016 presidential sweepstakes, in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary , is that both Democrats and Republicans now face long nominating battles.RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay offers his commentary on the final results from the New Hampshire primary.

The party elites hate this – short and sweet nominating contests work best for them. Long campaigns drain money and effort away from the general election and create internecine jousts. That doesn’t mean, as in the Democratic battle of 2008, that the primary wounds can’t be healed, but it does take time.

As all of the polls, if not the chattering classes, have shown, there is an anti-establishment fervor in both parties. Trump’s solid victory over a muddled field is evidence that no centrist politician that the party elders can coalesce around has emerged. That may happen, but probably not until after the South Carolina primary and the Nevada caucus.

Trump corralled 35 percent of the vote and finished far ahead of his nearest rival, Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich is an establishment figure who spent almost two decades in the House before winning election to the State House in his swing state. He is a moderate conservative who appears thoughtful, unlike the bombastic Trump.

It’s difficult to envision the other two governors – Chris Christie and Jeb Bush – being factors after South Carolina unless their fortunes change very soon. Christie is probably the first to go as his money dries up. Bush may make a last stand in South Carolina, but his campaign is on fumes and one wonders just how long his money people will put up with his lackluster, coronation-style campaign.

``This campaign is not dead,’’ Bush told supporters last night in New Hampshire. That is not, um, an optimistic message.

The modern GOP is run by preachers and plutocrats. The preacher, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, won the Iowa caucus and plutocrat Trump won yesterday. Cruz will have to rebound in South Carolina to regain lost momentum.

As for Trump, he again appears to be a serious contender. Exit polls showed that he won every important demographic group in New Hampshire – among men, women, voters under 30 and almost 40 percent of voters without a college education and around 30 percent of those who had. Public opinion surveys in South Carolina show him with a double-digit lead so far.

 Some in the Republican establishment were banking on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to become the Trump alternative, but he looks like a lightweight after his final debate meltdown and poor showing yesterday. Rubio was so bad he didn’t even score a single delegate.

What this all boils down to is that so long as the field includes four or five other aspirants, ``Trump can win states with roughly the same one third of the vote that brought him’’ his New Hampshire victory, writes Dan Balz of the Washington Post, arguably the best of the national campaign reporters.

In the Democratic contest, the stunner was the Bernie Sanders blowout over Hillary Clinton. The 74-year 21st century New Dealer’s margin of victory is the second-largest ever in a contested a New Hampshire primary since John F. Kennedy’s 1960 win over a pen manufacturer with the forgettable name of Paul Fisher.

Voters went with their hearts, not the warnings of the Clintons and the party elites who asserted over and over that a Sanders nomination would mean a 49-state blowout a la the George McGovern 1972 debacle. The most remarkable aspect of the Sanders rout was the way he cruised the ideological spectrum, winning groups the pundits handed to Clinton as recently as a month ago. Case in point: The Vermont senator won  women 55 to 45 percent, according to New York Times exit polls. He won voters who called themselves `Very liberal,' which is no surprise. He also swept self-indentified `moderate' voters by 21 points.

Clinton clearly won with one piece of the Democratic coalition: voters with incomes of $200,000 or more. That demographic made up about 8 percent of the electorate and went 53 to 46 percent for her. Yet, given yesterday's story line, that may not be a facet Clinton wants to amplify.

Sanders showed that, once again, campaigns matter. His was pretty flawless, with a consistent message founded in his long held beliefs about predatory capitalism and a system rigged against the average American. The Vermont senator also showed the funny, warm aspect of his persona that longtime friends  and acquaintances  know. He was able to evolve from the angry shouter who carved a reputation as irascible.

Now, Sanders must beef up his foreign policy team and speak with more nuance and authority on foreign affairs. And, of course, hit up his hordes of internet donors for more campaign cash. What looked improbable just three weeks ago now seems within reach. Sanders won every demographic except voters over 65. Young women went substantially for Sanders, despite the negative whining of such Clinton surrogates as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin and feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

As for Clinton, well, campaigns matter too. While one can make a cogent argument that she has the intelligence and experience to be a good president, her effort thus far has been awful. She doesn’t have a clear message. And it has to frustrate allies that she still doesn’t have an answer for her Iraq War vote when she was a New York senator – she had to know this would come up, as it did with Barack Obama in 2008.

Then there is the Wall Street coziness, which Sanders jumped on. Perhaps her biggest obstacle is the feeling, borne out in exit polls, that voters just don’t trust her or believe she doesn’t care as much as Sanders ``for people like me.’’

Clinton’s last weekend was a disaster. Her campaign emitted the whiff of death. The most pathetic moment had to be the sight of  her husband, the former president, bashing Sanders before a half-full room during while Super Bowl flashed across television screens across the country. Clinton and her people need to right this ship, sooner rather than later.

One of the biggest barriers is that she is sure to get advice to "go negative" on Sanders. But as every campaign professional knows, it is difficult to toss mud with unfavorables  and mistrust poll numbers as high as hers.

Yet, she isn’t over yet, even if she often looks that way in public appearances. Her campaign is trying desperately to play down the significance of the Iowa and New Hampshire results. The 28 states that hold primaries or caucuses in March award 56 percent of the delegates. And she still has a huge lead among super delegates, the party poohbahs and members of Congress who reflect the establishment, such as it is after New Hampshire.

Republican Donald Trump speaks at the New Hampshire primary.
Republican Donald Trump speaks at the New Hampshire primary.