1) Big win for Trump. Not just that he won, but how the whole think shook out is almost better than he could have hoped for. If Rubio comes in a strong #2, then Rubio can really make a strong play to consolidating the “establishment” and challenging Trump going forward. Alas, the Marcobot debate really seems to have mattered. Dylan Matthews:
Meanwhile, the biggest potential threat to him — a Marco Rubio who unified the “establishment lane,” drawing support from John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie and finishing a close second to Trump — never materialized. Rubio did gain in polling, but only 2.3 points; Kasich meanwhile gained 3.4 and Jeb Bush gained 1.3. The establishment remained divided, with three candidates bunched together in the low double digits, rather than one candidate whose numbers could rival Trump’s.
Worst of all, Rubio didn’t even finish second. After Iowa, a strong second-place finish could’ve made Rubio the consensus establishment favorite even if he only beat Kasich and Bush by a little bit. But his second-place polling place didn’t translate into actual second place, perhaps because of his “robotic glitch” gaffe during Saturday’s debate in which he repeated the same talking point ad nauseam, even after Christie called him on it.
The cherry on top is that Ted Cruz remained mired in fourth place. If Cruz had gotten second or even third — as appeared plausible, given that his numbers rivaled those of Kasich, Rubio, and Bush — that would’ve suggested that he wasn’t a social conservative Iowa fluke, like Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012, that he was actually a viable nominee with appeal outside evangelical-heavy electorates.
By finishing so poorly, Cruz blunted whatever momentum he might have had going into South Carolina, another evangelical hotbed where Trump leads but Cruz was gaining pre-Iowa (it hasn’t been polled since, bafflingly):
Winning New Hampshire is good for Donald Trump. Keeping the establishment divided is good for Donald Trump. Marginalizing Ted Cruz is good for Donald Trump. So tonight was, in every conceivable way, very very good for Donald Trump.
And Nate Cohn:
Mr. Trump could not have asked for much more. If you were ranking Republicans in terms of their chances to defeat Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz, you would probably list Mr. Rubio, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kasich. Yet they appear likeliest to finish tonight in exactly the opposite order — maximizing the likelihood that all three stay in the race…
The presence of so many viable, mainstream Republican candidates poses a huge challenge to the party’s establishment. Most obviously, the three have split mainstream voters and donors, and will continue to do so. But it is even worse: They have used their donors’ money to viciously attack one another, instead of Mr. Trump.
The strong showing for Mr. Kasich is particularly inconvenient for the party. His appeal is narrowly concentrated among moderate voters, who are overrepresented in New Hampshire. He doesn’t have the broad appeal or organization necessary to turn his New Hampshire strength into a serious race.
But his showing in New Hampshire could be enough to prevent a Republican with broader appeal, like Mr. Rubio, from consolidating the coalition of mainstream conservatives and well-educated moderate voters who could eventually defeat Mr. Cruz or Mr. Trump.
Mr. Bush and particularly Mr. Rubio have the potential to build broader coalitions. But both have now failed to capitalize on huge opportunities; there are well-founded doubts about both candidates, which will make it harder for voters and party leaders to coalesce behind either…
Mr. Cruz failed to demonstrate any meaningful appeal beyond the base of self-described “very conservative” and evangelical voters who helped him win Iowa. He holds just 12 percent of the vote. That’s modestly above past winners of Iowa who have gone on to lose this primary, like Mike Huckabee, who won 11 percent in New Hampshire, or Rick Santorum, who won 9 percent.
Mr. Cruz won just 4 percent of moderate voters and just 9 percent of “somewhat conservative” voters.
The weakness of Mr. Trump’s opposition should not detract from his own performance. He currently holds around 34 percent of the vote — above the 31 percent he held in pre-election polls.
The establishment’s consistent dream, ever since Trump rocketed into a national polling lead, has been that consolidation of the “establishment lane” candidates will lead eventually some someone from the Rubio/Bush/Christie/Kasich foursome taking a strong lead. The problem for the establishment is that New Hampshire is the only state where this would have actually worked. Had supporters of those four men all united behind a single candidate, he would have won.
But they didn’t.
And in national polling averages, winnowing alone doesn’t work. If you combine Rubio’s 17.8 percent with Bush’s 4.3 percent, Kasich’s 4 percent, and Christie’s 2.5 percent you get a grand total of 28.5, which is still slightly behind Trump.
But worse than that, there’s little reason to believe that actual voters endorse the “lanes” schema that political journalists have embraced. Voters who like Christie’s tough-talking persona may be drawn to Trump as the next best thing. Kasich and Trump stand out as the two candidates in the field who are a bit soft on the welfare state. Rubio and Trump are running on similar themes of rescuing the United States from Obama-induced decline. And then, of course, national polling still shows a healthy 10 percent of Republicans backing outsider figures Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, who may naturally gravitate toward Trump…
So far, the establishment has been trying to beat Trump with wishful thinking. It keeps not working. Trump could self-destruct or drop out for no reason at all. He could be abducted by aliens. Who knows? But merely hoping for those things is not a plan. The plain reality is that right now he is on course to win the nomination unless some concerted effort is made to stop him. And so far, there’s no sign that any such effort is underway. Republican leaders not actively involved in the campaign simply seem baffled and stunned into indifference. And they’re running out of time.
And hey, big win, i.e., strong 2nd, for my favorite Republican running, John Kasich. That said, it is truly hard to conceive how the candidate who is my personal favorite could possibly win the Republican nomination. I’d love for Kasich to come on strong and make a real showing for the sanity wing of the GOP, but I just don’t see it happening. Will be curious to see how much of a bump he gets from NH. Given all his resources, Jeb! will surely go on. My guess is Chris Christie hangs it up.
2) On the Democratic side, no spinning it, big win for Bernie. Sure, we now expected it because of the polls, but a 20 point margin is a big deal. I still don’t think this means he’s the nominee, but it does give every indication Hillary is in for a long, hard slog (say what you will about Rumsfeld, the man was quotable). That said, I still believe what Nate Silver wrote more than 6 months ago is highly relevant:
There’s another theory, however, that probably does more to explain Sanders’s standing in Iowa and New Hampshire, and it’s really simple. Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa and Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire are really liberal and really white, and that’s the core of Sanders’s support…
In Iowa and New Hampshire, that isn’t a very big deal. In 2008, 93 percent of Democrats who participated in the Iowa caucus were white, while 95 percentof those who voted in the New Hampshire primary were.
In fact, along with the Democratic electorate in Sanders’s native Vermont, those in Iowa and New Hampshire are as favorable to him as any in the country. In the chart below, I’ve listed the share of Democratic voters who identified as liberal, and as white, in the 39 states where the networks conducted exit polls during the 2008 Democratic primaries. Then I’ve multiplied the two numbers together to estimate the share of Democrats in each state who were both white and liberal...
I estimate that 54 percent of the voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary were white liberals in 2008. That’s the second-highest figure in the country, after Vermont (59 percent). In the Iowa caucus, meanwhile, white liberals made up 50 percent; that put the state in a tie with Massachusetts for the third-highest percentage.
The percentage of white liberals isn’t so high in other early primary states, however. It’s just 29 percent in Nevada and 19 percent in South Carolina. The percentage is also low in high-population, delegate-rich states like California (26 percent) and Texas (17 percent).
Put another way, Iowa and New Hampshire aren’t representative of the more diverse electorates that Democrats will turn out elsewhere. It just so happens that the idiosyncrasies of the first two states match Sanders’s strengths and Clinton’s relative weaknesses.
Now, momentum isn’t nothing, but it’s not necessarily everything it’s cracked up to be. If you go back and look at 2008, Obama should have had the momentum to run away with things, but the demographic determinism remained doggedly persistent with Hillary continuing to win states through to the end that had favorable demographics to her. In 2016, Bernie should continue to do well in states with lots of white liberal Democrats, but I just don’t see his performance thus far leading to the large shift among non-white voters that he would need to pull this off.