The Iowa Caucus was supposed to paint a clearer picture of the future of the 2016 Presidential race, but the unexpected results have only complicated matters.
Ted Cruz’s upset victory in Iowa shattered the myth that Donald Trump is the ultimate “winner” in the Republican Primary contest, yet most of the media was enamored with Marco Rubio’s strong 3rd place finish, in which he almost overtook Trump, making the case that the Republican establishment should back him. The crowded Republican field began to dwindle afterwards, however, as poor showings led to departures by Mike Huckabee (who won the state in the 2008 caucus), Rick Santorum (who won the state in the 2012 caucus), and Rand Paul.
Hillary Clinton won and lost Iowa. While math did show that her 49.8% of the vote was indeed barely greater than Bernie Sanders’ 49.6% of the vote, the fact that the Sanders overcame a 30%+ deficit in Iowa at the start of his campaign to nearly upsetting the Clinton political machine meant that the resulting media explosion framed the result as a tie or even a win for Sanders. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley also suspended his campaign after receiving less than 1% of the vote.
All of this meaning that the stakes are still high for the candidates entering the first primary in the nation in New Hampshire.
Donald Trump Looks to Get Back to Winning
Trump enters New Hampshire desperately needing a victory after losing his lead in the polls in Iowa. However, his lead in New Hampshire is considerably stronger, currently polling roughly 16.2% above second place.
If Trump were to lose New Hampshire following his loss in Iowa, the resulting loss in momentum and the inevitable media coverage of his collapse makes his chances for the nomination slim to none.
Ted Cruz Aims to Keep Momentum
Cruz’s upset in Iowa garnering the Evangelical and outside vote away from Trump solidified his position as a front-runner in for the GOP’s nomination. The story is different in New Hampshire, however, as he extremely unlikely to come out on top, as he’s polling anywhere from 2nd to 4th place, hovering at around 10-12%.
To put it simply though, New Hampshire and it’s more moderate and establishment-friendly demographics is not crucial to Cruz’s outsider narrative and as long as his showing is decent, Cruz will still have enough capital to remain competitive in GOP race. His main focus will be the following South Carolina primary instead.
Marco Rubio Tries Not To Implode
Rubio’s strong Iowa showing arguably have him the most momentum heading into New Hampshire, causing many pundits to predict Rubio and his strengthened establishment support would catapult him to front-runner status. This was until Rubio’s disastrous debate performance on Saturday, where he was thoroughly outmatched by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and seemed lost and confused when he had to respond with something other than his standard “Obama hates American exceptionalism” stump-speech.
While we won’t fully view the ramifications of the cringe-worthy debate performance until the results are finally counted on Tuesday, it seems to have halted Rubio’s momentum. If he can salvage a 2nd place result leading to the exit of the remaining establishment candidates, he can still remain competitive by absorbing their support as the GOP race is starting to shape up as a 3-way sprint between Trump, Cruz, and Rubio.
Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie Look For a Miracle
These three fall into same category of experienced establishment moderate Governors who have thrown all of their resources into New Hampshire, desperately hoping for a 2nd place finish or an improbable upset to convince the Republican establishment to support them over Rubio.
Currently, Kasich has the best shot at achieving this goal, as he has been holding a strong 13% of support in polls that has potential to leap to 2nd place. Following Kasich, Christie has slowly been building his case, with the help of his emotional speech regarding drug addiction and his strong debate showings.
Jeb’s disappointing campaign is currently on life-support, banking on an improbable showing in New Hampshire to convince his donors to not bolt for Rubio. Unfortunately for him, look for an exit by Bush after New Hampshire or South Carolina.
Hillary Clinton Vies to Cut into Bernie Sanders’ Lead
On the Democratic side, following the virtual-tie in Iowa, the gloves finally came off in the first debate between only Sanders and Clinton. While the previous debates were mostly good-tempered, this one got ugly quick. Filled with personal attacks from both Sanders and Clinton, it appeared as if both candidates truly held disdain for each other.
Sanders has held a consistent lead in the Granite state, which currently sits at a roughly 13% lead on Clinton, who will try to capture the magic that propelled her to her upset win in New Hampshire in 2008 and reclaim the role of Democratic front-runner after her less-than-definitive win in Iowa.
New Hampshire is a must-win for Sanders. To have any chance heading into South Carolina, Nevada, and Super Tuesday, all areas in which Clinton holds a significant lead, he needs a definitive win in New Hampshire in order to try to send shock-waves through the establishment and gain any sort of momentum desperately needed to remain competitive.
Image Credit to Reuters / Brian Snyder / Darren McCollester / Getty Images / Richard Perry / New York Times