New Hampshire sent a signal to the rest of America on Tuesday night as they overwhelmingly voted “Bernie” Bernard Sanders and Donald Trump as their favored Presidential candidates! You can see the full results here.
It’s easy to get carried away following dynamic results like what we saw in New Hampshire tonight, but let’s take a breath and look at what this changes (and what it doesn’t change):
What NH changes: Obviously, this proves that Donald Trump has a significant amount of support, and that the majority of his support is coming from more moderate Republican voters. Additionally, Kasich’s strong second-place finish is going to vault him into the group of contenders and out of the realm of the long shots. Trump and Kasich can point to these results to demonstrate that they have received real votes, not just poll support.
Further, both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are going to feel tremendous pressure to do very well in the coming states or drop out. Chris Christie is going to get a lot of phone calls urging him to get out of the race, as will Carly Fiorina. Neither of them have a realistic path to the nomination, and neither will realistically perform well in upcoming states.
Finally, NH proves that if the establishment wing of the Republican party is split four ways, Trump will win every time. Until Christie and at least one other establishment candidate drop out, Trump is going to keep racking up victories. Going forward, Trump supporters should hope that we don’t see any candidates drop out, and establishment types should hope to see the field shrink to three candidates as soon as possible.
What NH does not change: The most recent national polls show only three candidates in double digits nationally: Trump, Ted Cruz , and Rubio. National polls don’t determine the outcome of the nomination process, but they are a good indicator as to which candidates have wide support, and which candidates have support only in a few states.
If you didn’t guess, I’m talking about John Kasich especially. He may have finished second in New Hampshire, but he can’t realistically hope to win any of the upcoming states. He’s polling at 2% in South Carolina. Two percent. Given South Carolina’s large evangelical constituency, there are only two candidates who can realistically hope to win South Carolina: Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Additionally, we may not see the field shrink quickly. Ben Carson has largely stopped campaigning, but he seems determined to stay in the race. In fact, Carly Fiorina may be the only candidate to drop out following tonight’s results. Chris Christie is in the single digits nationally, but so is Jeb Bush. Can Christie really be expected to drop out right away because Bush got 4% more of the vote in New Hampshire?
Conclusion: The likely outcome of tonight’s race is that the establishment wing will become an even more bitter contest, and not a lot else will change. Rubio didn’t perform well tonight, but he is still a viable national candidate with broad appeal. Kasich did perform well tonight, but he is still not a viable national candidate, and he still doesn’t have broad appeal. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Kasich winning even one state primary.
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