New Hampshire, and the importance of being second

new hamsphire.jpg

Hi friends! Isn’t it exciting that people are finally voting? Actual election results cut through so much blather. Not to mention mow down superfluous candidates. Iowa alone winnowed out Huckabee, O’Malley, Paul & Santorum. You read my pre-Iowa prognostication. So what do I think of New Hampshire? Actually (barring an extremely interesting upset), who’s in first is pretty apparent on each side, and the real action is all about the nature of second.

Democrats

Whether you look at poll averages:

RCP

538.com’s “polls only” and “polls plus” models:

NH pollsonly

NH polls+

Or the betting markets:

NHdembets

The story is the same. Bernie Sanders is overwhelmingly favored to win New Hampshire. And therein lies the trap for him. As the analysts at 538.com have noted, Sanders strongest demographic is white, liberal voters, and so it would be expected that Iowa and New Hampshire would be very strong states for him. States to come have many more non-white voters, and self-describerd moderates, segments he has made much less polling headway with so far. So he would be really benefited by the maximum possible bounce out of these first two states.

You’ll notice the narrowing in his New Hampshire margin following Iowa in the first chart above. This narrowing seems to have backed off a bit, but primary polling  can be remarkably unpredictable (add to which Superbowl Sunday was a very ineffective day to be polling most Americans). It is certainly possible that Sanders could end up under 50%, and Clinton within single-digits of him. And if so, she benefits from the “better than expected” narrative. On the other hand, if he gets a wide margin, the press will probably run with the “she only tied Iowa, and just lost New Hampshire big” storyline. In which case Bernie is close to the best case scenario I laid out last time-he wins Iowa, then New Hampshire, and does better than-expected in Nevada and South Carolina, and goes on to get a striking distance 40% or more of the states and delegates on Super Tuesday.

Of course “best case” is still an uphill slog for him, but at least it’s a possible slog.

Republicans

As with the Democrats, poll averages:

RCP

538.com’s “polls only” and “polls plus” models:

538 New Hampshire

Or the betting markets:

NHdrepbets

All produce the same likelihood- Trump easily carries New Hampshire. Which really makes the race for second the story everyone will focus on. In this regard, Rubio had a New Hampshire surge after nearly passing Trump for second in Iowa, but it seems to be fading. Add to this what was widely seen as a poor debate performance this weekend, there is a serious chance he gets eclipsed by Cruz or Kasich in New Hampshire.

Kasich deserves further thought. New Hampshire is much more moderate, as Republican politics goes, than Iowa. So this is the kind of state he’d have his best shot in. A third place finish wouldn’t really get him a lot of attention past New Hampshire, but a second could have the party establishment re-evaluating whether he’s the alternative to Trump and Cruz that they might want to back instead of Rubio. The nightmare scenario for Rubio, of course, would be to actually end up fourth, if both Kasich and Cruz pass him by. That could make for a very messy, and interesting, South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

We’ll have to tune in Tuesday night and see!

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