New Hampshire

The big winner in New Hampshire last night wasn’t even on the ballot. Michael Bloomberg was sitting on his booster seat in his upper east side apartment wringing his hands. Bloomberg fanned speculation over the weekend that he is mulling a centrist independent presidential candidacy if the two major parties nominate extremophiles. It was obviously perfect timing.

Last night the socialist Bernie Sanders won the “Live Free or Die” state, while Donald Trump made the strongest argument against democracy since Alexander Hamilton at the Constitutional Convention. Trump’s victory speech was a meandering experience, equivalent to interviewing the player of the game right after a walk-off:

I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, remember that. Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9% and 5% unemployment, the number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently as high as 42%… So we’re gonna (sic) take care of the economy. We’re gonna (sic) take care of jobs. We’re gonna (sic) take care of all the things that I said. Our border. Everything. Healthcare, it’s going to be so great. Remember this about Obamacare, people are forgetting, but now they’re miserable, because it’s going up 45%, 35%, 55%; it’s totally out of control. Probably sinks of its own volition in 2017, unless the Republicans give it another, I mean. What’s going on? What’s going on?

– Donald Trump, suffering from Broca’s aphasia after winning New Hampshire

What is going on Donald? I’m absolutely positive he has no idea. John Kasich put in a yeoman’s effort in the Granite State, giving 106 town hall meetings across the state, and gave a second place speech that can only be described as un-Trump-like:

We are all made to change the world. We are all made to be a part of the healing of this world. If we would just slow down and heal the divisions within our own families and be willing to listen to the person that lives next door, when you’re in such a hurry to get out of the driveway or get out of the shopping center; if you could just slow down, look them in the eye and give them a hug… Our hearts can change America.

– Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Kasich will have to attack Bush; it’s his only viable option. There’s only enough room in the GOP primaries for one compassionate conservative in normal years, let alone 2016. Jeb (!) delivered a deliciously spiteful blow to Marco Rubio last night, lifting himself off the turf by pushing his fellow Floridian’s face into the mud. Although, Marco kept it close enough to register 10% and earn delegates in a humiliating 5th place in the moderate friendly northeast. The evolution of the race cannot progress any further until Bush or Rubio vanquishes the other. Neither can live while the other survives. Fortunately for Rubio, Jeb no longer has his attack dog Chris Christie, who’s headed back to New Jersey, to do his dirty work. The longer it takes for the establishment to coalesce the more delegates Cruz and Trump will swallow.

Cruz, representing the right, and Trump, representing singular first person pronouns everywhere, will continue to spar overtop a broken center as we approach the most glorious primary of them all: South, hotbed of secession, Carolina. South Carolinians like their competitions as dirty as they get (they name their beloved sports teams after cock fighting), and they like their political intrigue even dirtier. In 2000, George W. Bush released an anonymous and fake poll into the field just two days before the South Carolina Primary asking voters if they would still vote for John McCain if they found out he had fathered an illegitimate black child. (I love absolutely everything about that sentence) I guess W’s team was just curious about the hypothetical.

People are flying home in body bags after South Carolina, they always do.

Democratic candidates aren’t going south to Dixie, they’re headed west to Nevada. There, for the first time, presidential candidates will face non-white voters in substantial numbers. The large Hispanic voter population will probably favor Clinton, who desperately needs some good news. Bernie Sanders had the victory of his career last night in New Hampshire. The results are still being counted up, but Bernie edged near 60% of the vote and drove Clinton down into the 30’s. Such a resounding victory might provide him enough momentum to make Nevada, then South Carolina 7 days later, close.

There are two games at play: The momentum game that unfolds first as candidates try to eliminate competition and snowball support across the country, and the delegate game that requires patience and a strategy that focuses on states and precincts that have more bang for their buck. In 2008, Senator Clinton saved her campaign with a huge victory in New Hampshire over Senator Obama, but only tied him in delegates. In 2016, Secretary Clinton was massively defeated, but will only lose by 3-5 delegates to Senator Sanders out of the 2,382 needed to procure the nomination. Hillary’s election night speeches from those two contests demonstrate her evolution and highlight her current struggle to frame her candidacy:

Clinton Words

Of course, the first was a triumphant victory speech and the other an embarrassing loss, but the differences in rhetoric are hard to ignore. The momentum game ends on March 1st, Super Tuesday, when regional and demographic preferences solidify. Sanders must now show he has appeal to western and southern Democrats. Nevada and South Carolina should be interesting.

Correction:  A previous version of this article stated that the Democratic South Carolina Primary was 4 days after Nevada, but it is a full week later.

New Voter ID Law in NH

New Hampshire is testing out its new Voter ID law for the first time today. The new law still allows citizens to register at their polling places, but requires a government-issued photo ID to actually vote. If a voter doesn’t have their ID with them, or just doesn’t have one, they’ll be required to have a mugshot taken and attached to a signed affidavit by one of the poll workers. Poll workers are the guardian angels of democracy (always thank your poll workers), but implementing new rules is difficult for any system. It’s probably reasonable to expect later than usual returns from the city centers and university precincts in Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties this evening.

New Hampshire Preview

The Wigwam

For all the poetry and prose devoted to the retail nature, measured thoughtfulness, and quant New England intellectualism of the New Hampshire Primary, the subconscious drivers of the Granite State’s behavior are blind contrarianism and regional favoritism. New Hampshire voters simply hate the idea of echoing Iowa’s results. They would rather demonstrate just how much more they know about politics than the rest of the country. They want to show that they cannot be bought by a marketing campaign or told how to vote by the political elite. New Hampshire, simply put, is the Hipster Primary.

The Country: You were right New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton really should be President.

New Hampshire: I like Hillary, totes, but in a nostalgic way. Like the first Arcade Fire album. Ever since she went on her world tour as Secretary of State, I can’t even.

The Country: What?

New Hampshire: Yeah man, I like Bernie now. Have you heard of Bernie Sanders? Probably not. He’s like that crazed unpasteurized goat cheese guy at your local farmers market that thinks everything is a conspiracy. Did you know he released a socialist spoken-word folk album in the 80’s? He also just kind of hates large complicated amorphous or integrated anything, which is why I opened my nanobrewery and ride a bicycle that shuns even moderate innovations in technology, like gears.

Bernie is going to blow the socks off Hillary in the Granite State, but it matters by how much. If Senator Sanders can win by 20%, he will drive Secretary Clinton’s total down into the 30’s (First Objective). A few percent more and Bernie will break into the 60’s (Second Objective). A 57 to 41 victory has the appearance of a solid win for Sanders, but a 60 to 38 spread looks like a bloodbath. The optics of the latter is that of a 2/3 to 1/3 advantage, and could build the perception of momentum for Sanders going into Nevada, South Carolina, and Super Tuesday. If Bernie edges into the 60’s early in the evening, expect CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to say, “Look at this, Sanders is almost doubling Clinton’s totals.” Because wolves can’t do math.

Strafford County on the border with Maine will be our bellwether. Comprising 9% of the New Hampshire electorate, Strafford reliably matches the 1st and 2nd place finishers statewide for both Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.

Strafford CountyDonald Trump will have his second shot at actually winning something and he’ll have better demographics on his side than Iowa. Incredibly, despite leading nationally and in New Hampshire among registered Republicans, Trump is not absorbing an all out assault from every other GOP candidate. Rather, the remaining field is mobbing Marco Rubio, who received the biggest Iowa bump and is trying to consolidate the GOP center. More concerning than anything, Rubio’s poor debate performance in New Hampshire showed the potency of a Bush / Christie alliance.

Bush, witty but weak wristed, and Christie, as deferential and majestic as a drunk driving a snowplow to Van Halen on high volume, easily undid Rubio’s strength of staying on message when pressed. Rubio appeared inanimate and unoriginal, unsure how to deflect the fire and ice combination of attacks. New Hampshire distributes delegates proportionally, but only to candidates that receive at least 10% of the vote. Trump will clear that bar with ease, but Rubio, Cruz, Bush, and Kasich are each capable of landing 10%, or not. Cruz is a demagogue that won’t play very well in New England and Kasich is too moderate to compete on Super Tuesday, but Bush is a real contender to unseat Rubio as the establishment candidate. Rubio almost needs to finish at least second in New Hampshire, but losing to Bush would be a mortal wound.