Decision 2016: New Hampshire has spoken

Now that the New Hampshire primary has concluded, with (as this article is being written) 89% of the vote counted, what are the takeaways?


(1) Essentially, the deck has been reshuffled, as New Hampshire once again has contradicted Iowa’s results;

(2) After Iowa, we had noted the existence of three candidate “tracks”: the “Trump track”, the “Cruz track”, and the “moderate/establishment track.” Donald Trump’s overwhelming win in New Hampshire (with 35% of the vote, and more than twice the vote of his nearest competitor) firmly places him in the driver’s seat for the duration of the nomination contest, provided that he has no further electoral stumbles like in Iowa. Similarly, the fracturing of the “moderate vote”, combined with a more unified “conservative vote”, and an aggressive get out the vote infrastructure enabled Ted Cruz to take third place with (UPDATED 2/10 PM) 1,900 more votes than Jeb Bush, and this primary showing similarly puts Cruz in good shape for upcoming contests;

(3) The “moderate track” is now less clear than it was after Iowa: while Rubio’s third place finish in Iowa gave his campaign credibility, his debate stumble cost him momentum in the closing days of the campaign, and he finished in fifth place with (UPDATED 2/10 PM) 1,300 votes behind Jeb Bush. Unless he can finish first or second in upcoming primaries, he will not get the media attention he needs for what appears to be a Trump vs Cruz nomination contest. In fact, there are two candidates who are now fighting for the “moderate track”: Ohio Governor John Kasich (who finished second) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (who finished fourth). While Kasich would seem to be better positioned to compete against Trump and Cruz, he also has less money and less of a campaign infrastructure than Jeb Bush. His survival therefore depends on consolidated “moderate support” and an infusion of money;

(4) Chris Christie finished 6th with (UPDATED 2/10 PM)  7%, Carly Fiorina 7th with 4%, and Ben Carson finished 8th with 2% – they now risk losing media attention going into subsequent contests, and accordingly, both Christie and Fiorina have dropped out;

(5) Just like in Iowa, Republican turnout was at record levels: the previous record (set in 2012) of 250,000 was shattered with (UPDATED 2/10 PM)  a turnout of 284,000 last night (Iowa Republican turnout was more than 50% higher than it was in 2012).


(1) While Bernie Sanders was expected to win New Hampshire as a “home town candidate” (he lives next door in Vermont), his 60-38% landslide win over Hillary Clinton now establishes him as a legitimate candidate;

(2) Sanders’ landslide win in New Hampshire puts him in stronger footing for upcoming Democratic contests, although for him to go the distance, he has to be able to win union and/or minority voters;

(3) While Democratic turnout was healthy (UPDATED 2/10 PM)  (about 251,000 voted for one of the Democratic candidates), it was still less than the record of 289,000 that was set in 2008, when Barack Obama was on the ballot.

Upcoming contests:

Before “Super Tuesday”  (where over a dozen states will simultaneously hold primaries/caucuses) on March 1, Nevada and South Carolina will vote. Republicans vote on February 20 in South Carolina and February 23 in Nevada. Democrats vote in Nevada on February 20 and in South Carolina on February 27.

For Republicans, the question will be whether a viable “moderate track” can be constructed to compete against Trump and Cruz, as Jeb Bush will put up a stiff challenge in South Carolina, which complicates Kasich and Rubio’s efforts unless Christie can withdraw from the race and consolidate some of the moderate vote – while South Carolina is a southern state, it also has seen substantial northern in migration into its coastal counties.

On the Democratic side, Hillary has to show now that she can dominate in a primary, while Sanders needs to show strength among minorities – in Nevada, most of the minorities are Hispanic, while South Carolina’s Democratic electorate is majority black.

One dynamic that will be somewhat different in either upcoming contest: Nevada is a closed primary (meaning that Independents cannot influence the primary results), while South Carolina is the first primary contest not have party registration at all.

In summary, while the winnowing out from the Presidential contests has not yet happened, from here on out, it will become tougher for candidates outside the “Big Four” (Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for the Republicans, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats) to get the media attention and funding they need to continue their candidacies.