It’s been a tough time for predictions here at Swinging Dead Cats. Last week, in the Iowa Caucus preview, I had Donald Trump winning there only to see Ted Cruz score a big victory. I called Iowa a coin-flip between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, so that one came out looking okay. But then, in my last “Weekend Links” post I wrote that the Carolina Panthers would beat the Denver Broncos by a touchdown or more in the Super Bowl. Well, that didn’t happen.
The Broncos’ defense made Cam Newton and his Panthers team look like a hapless high school squad as they fumbled and bumbled and missed a field goal on their way to an ugly loss on the country’s biggest stage. This was the one game I caught the whole season and it was a giant piece of garbage. Maybe I should write my own disingenuous piece about boycotting the NFL. Seriously though, I should boycott the NFL.
Back to predictions. One out of three is good for a hitter in baseball, but not for some random guy trying to establish credibility as a commentator on American politics. New Hampshire is unlikely to help me; the state can be very hard to predict because many people participate and many of them tend to decide just before they vote. This time, there are a few complicating factors as we wait to see how tomorrow’s actual voting compares to the polls and pundits’ predictions. For a good primer on New Hampshire’s contests, check out this piece over at Raw Story.
Let’s look at the Republican primary. Marco Rubio has been trending upwards in New Hampshire since his stronger-than-expected finish in Iowa. He seemed to be on his way to a comfortable second-place finish, and he could possibly challenge Trump for first. However, the overwhelming consensus is that Rubio received a savage beating at the hands of Chris Christie during Saturday night’s Republican debate. Polls won’t have the opportunity to register the effect of this, if any, before the good citizens of New Hampshire go out and vote.
With some recent polls indicating that around 30% of Republican primary voters are still undecided, it’s just hard to say what’s going to happen. Trump is comfortably in the lead but his support could be soft. However, his backing in New Hampshire has always been stronger and his lead over his opponents has been larger than either ever were in Iowa. I think Trump wins New Hampshire and Cruz outperforms his polls but I’m not sure that would be enough for Cruz to finish second. If Rubio really did come out of Saturday looking weak, then John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and/or Christie could all challenge him for pride of place among establishment candidates. If Rubio places behind any of them, he’ll have to beat them all in South Carolina on February 20th before he can continue arguing that he’s the best choice for the establishment. It will look even worse for Rubio if he also finishes behind Cruz tomorrow.
On the Democratic side, remember that it was New Hampshire that saved Clinton’s candidacy in 2008. That was a surprising outcome. Even though she’s been trending in the right direction since her slight victory in Iowa, I don’t think there will be any surprises tomorrow. Sanders has a comfortable lead in the polls and I think he’ll win with more than 50% of the vote. If Clinton finishes with 40% or higher, that will allow her to claim she did well enough. She’ll be relieved to move on to Nevada and then South Carolina where she has enjoyed huge polling leads. However, if Sanders wins New Hampshire as expected, the next big question will be: can Sanders put up a decent challenge in South Carolina and keep himself viable heading into the many March contests?
Really though, we shouldn’t look too far ahead. The Republican contest has always deserved a wait-and-see approach, and the Democratic contest is turning into a much closer fight than I was anticipating just a month ago. Whatever happens, trying to figure out what these strong challenges to both parties’ establishments mean for the state of American politics and the general election in November will be interesting.