New Hampshire is a funny primary. They let anyone vote, including people from out of state. They have been trying to fix that problem, but I don’t know how successful that effort has been. Still, the state has a great many Massholes who moved over the border to avoid taxes. They still dream of voting for a Kennedy, just not paying for the privilege. There are plenty of Calvin Coolidge conservatives too, but the state is slowly turning into Vermont.
The party men have figured this to be the firewall for their boys. Back in the fall when Trump started getting attention, they were predicting that he would follow the Howard Dean path. That is, a collapse in Iowa and a final flame out in New Hampshire. Rubio, Bush, Kasich or Christie would be the guy to emerge from the Granite State as their champion. Up until Saturday night, they were banking on Rubio.
The people in charge have already decided to ignore Trump and look at second place as that is the new first place, unless their boy finishes third. Looking at 538, the predicted order is Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and Bush, but the separation is tiny, so it is a dead heat for second place. No one is approaching 20% from that group so it will be tough to sell second as a victory. Then again, Clinton sold himself as the comeback kid after finishing third.
At the other end, this is the last hope for Christie, Carson and Farina. Christie needs to finish at least third and probably second. Farina is done, barring a miracle. She and Carson have been mostly decorations for the last few months and their utility has come to an end. Both will drop out this week and most likely endorse the party man. Farina just wants a cabinet job, so she’ll do what’s she is told, but who knows with Carson.
From the party perspective, the best case tomorrow night is Trump finishes in the high 20’s and their boy finishes in the 20’s. Trump at 27% and Rubio at 20% can be spun as a great victory for Rubio. If Cruz were to drop to fourth or fifth, that would help to. The narrative out of New Hampshire would be that Trump and the crazies are losing steam, while the good thinkers are consolidating around their man. My bet is that story is written and ready to go.
What will happen is the party will call in their big donors to let Bush, Kasich and the rest know that it is time, for the good of the party, to rally around Rubio. This could also work if Kasich finishes second. He’s a loyal soldier of the party and he hails from a valuable state. He’s a bit erratic, but a strong second is hard to ignore, given what has gone on in the primary thus far. Kasich could plausibly reintroduce himself as the stable, experienced hand in the race.
The more likely scenario is Trump finishes in the high 20’s and the pack is in the mid-teens. A four-way tie between Cruz, Kasich, Rubio and Bush is a disaster. Everyone then has a reason to stay in the race and they have a reason to attack one another. It would be even uglier if Trump cracks 30% and the pack is in the low teens. The story out of New Hampshire will be all about Trump and his numbers will jump everywhere. People like a winner.
The world is coming to an end scenario is a Trump – Cruz finish, with the former in the 30’s and the latter in the 20’s. The boys at National Review will be slitting their wrists if that happens. In that scenario, there’s no reason for the party men to stick around as they will have been rejected with prejudice. The race will be about who gets to lead the revolt the rest of the way. If you are a Cruz supporter, this is your ideal outcome on Tuesday.
The other race is actually more interesting for the simple reason Hillary Clinton may start to hear calls to drop out in favor of someone like Joe Biden. The spin will be that Bernie Sanders is the local favorite, but Vermont is not New Hampshire. He’s viewed mostly as a joke everywhere outside of Burlington. If he wins big it is because Democrats would rather lose than see Hillary Clinton in the White House. Go Bernie!
The only way to avoid this, I think, is for Clinton to have a shockingly close finish with Sanders. I mean something like 52-48 where she can then claim a surge of support. Right now, the polling has her under 40% so getting into the mid-40’s is the only way to avoid the inevitable questions about her plausibility as a candidate. With so much attention on the GOP side, this is not farfetched, but I would not bet on it. Again. Go Bernie!