Who will win, who will lose, and who won’t make the cut in the 2016 New Hampshire Republican Primary.
1. Donald Trump will win
Although Donald Trump was predicted to win in Iowa, he was forced to settle for a disappointing second place finish behind Ted Cruz, and only just barely ahead of Marco Rubio. The difference here is that a caucus is a completely different beast from a primary.
While a primary is like an election day vote, a Republican caucus is more like a meeting – scheduled to take place at an appointed time with a determined agenda. There are speeches and discussions and in the end, a vote. For individuals with transportation or schedule limitations, the trouble it takes to get out and caucus might not be worth it.
By contrast, on primary day, individuals can show up and cast their vote whenever convenient, as long as the polls are open. It’s easier to convince supporters to go out and vote as opposed to going out and caucusing. Success in a caucus relies on an organized and dedicated team to knock on doors and drive people to their necessary locations. Donald Trump did not have this level of organization in Iowa, instead choosing to continue to coast on the free publicity from media outlets, the efforts of volunteers, and a series of viral campaign speeches that have attracted large crowds. In New Hampshire, however, speeches and stage presence may be all that Trump needs to maintain his wide lead and pull off a resounding win.
2. Marco Rubio will just barely finish in the Top 3
Marco Rubio had been hoping to leverage his 3rd place (nearly 2nd place) finish in Iowa into a Top 2 (or better) finish in New Hampshire. But due to stalling poll numbers that have kept him neck and neck with Ted Cruz for the past week, and a serious gaffe during Saturday’s GOP debate, Marco Rubio has likely lost any momentum he had been gaining.
Instead, Marco Rubio is likely to finish well based on previous support gained earlier in the week, but to a limit. According to the latest UMASS Tracking poll, Rubio is currently tied with Ted Cruz at 13%. Cruz, whose momentum from a 1st place finish in Iowa had started to fade after a week of attacks on his personal and professional character, is likely to lose supporters in this upcoming contest. Disillusioned voters will turn from Cruz to Rubio with enough support to boost him into the Top 3, but not to the 1st or 2nd place finish he had hoped for.
3. John Kasich will surprise us
After a strong start that quickly descended into a campaign season of barely keeping his head above water, Ohio Governor John Kasich may soon find himself the dark horse candidate in this race. After a solid performance during Saturday night’s GOP Debate, John Kasich is finally finding his footing among moderate to independent leaning voters.
In New Hampshire’s open primary, registered Democrats who identify as moderates may in fact choose to support Kasich over either of the race-to-left candidates on the Democratic side.
Depending on the poll, Kasich is anywhere from 6th place to tied with Rubio for 2nd. Across the field for both Democrat and Republican voters, John Kasich may be on track to pull off a sudden and surprising upset.
4. Carly Fiorina will drop out
After failing to post poll numbers high enough qualify for Saturday night’s GOP Debate, businesswoman Carly Fiorina was cut from the stage and unable to participate. Still, despite poll numbers sitting firmly in the low single digits, the former HP CEO marches on with optimism. Fiorina is hoping to benefit from a fresh start with a new crop of voters in New Hampshire, but will be unable to compete with any of the leading top tier candidates. Instead of choosing to continue west and south to Nevada and South Carolina, Fiorina will likely go the way of other low polling candidates and decide to suspend her campaign.
5. New Hampshire will make or break Jeb Bush
No candidate will say that New Hampshire is a must-win contest, but for Jeb Bush it is certainly vital to the legitimacy of his campaign. After starting out strong, Bush has steadily declined as competitor Donald Trump has repeatedly stolen the spotlight. Leading candidates Trump and Ted Cruz have branded themselves as counter to a Republican political establishment that Bush, with his family name and Super PAC support, is so clearly aligned with.
Despite having access to more money than any other candidate in either party, Jeb Bush has little to show for his efforts, and will be forced to reevaluate his campaign based on the results in New Hampshire. Although a disappointing loss is not likely to prompt Bush to drop out, it will mark a definite turning point in his bid for president should his message fail to connect with voters for a second time in a major political contest.
The upside is that Bush has performed strongly in previous debates, and has done well to attempt present himself as one of the few candidates willing to take on Donald Trump’s abrasive style of debating and campaigning. Should his attempt to stand against Trump’s fiery rhetoric succeed in New Hampshire, it may provide the spark that Bush needs to move forward into the later February contests and on into Super Tuesday.