I offer the following observations and speculations in the spirit of inquiry following the results in the New Hampshire primary last night. I acknowledge that we are in the realm of opinion and that I may well be mistaken. These are my thoughts.
Let me begin, however, in the realm of fact. New Hampshire runs an open primary with independents allowed to vote in the party of their choice. Turnout representing votes for the serious candidates on the Republican side (over 258,000) slightly exceeded turnout on the Democratic side for Sanders and Clinton (about 226,500). I would like to think that’s a hopeful sign.
On the Democrats:
How great it is to see Hillary Clinton crushed. She is a gold-plated phony and a pathological liar as well as an utterly corrupt politician. Her grating concession speech indicates that she intends to retreat to race and sex as the vehicles of her revival. The falsity of these themes fits her perfectly.
New Hampshire was the scene of Clinton’s comeback against Barack Obama in 2008 after Clinton’s drubbing by Obama in Iowa. The proposition that Sanders had some kind of home field advantage in New Hampshire represents little more than spin.
It seems to me that Sanders’s performance in Iowa and New Hampshire so far this year is more impressive than Obama’s in 2008, and that is impressive. New Hampshire and Iowa are territory ripe for insurgent candidacies. In 2008, in rejecting Clinton, it seemed to me that Democrats opted for the leftwardmost viable candidate. This year Sanders is the leftwardmost candidate. It is a source of his strength so far, but he may not be deemed viable by Democrats elsewhere. It isn’t clear to me where Sanders can take his act now.
Seizing on the opportunity to claim his smashing victory over Clinton, Sanders give a speech that went on like the Communist Manifesto. What a farrago of ignorance and hatred.
Without the possible intervention of the FBI, Clinton seems to me likely to recover in contests beyond New Hampshire. Nevertheless, Sanders’s victory last night shows Clinton’s weakness as a general election candidate. Yet the Republicans seem likely to field a weak general election candidate as well.
On the Republicans:
At the outset of the race on the Republican side, with Governors Perry, Walker and Jindal in the mix, I was impressed by the strength of the field. After last night I am impressed by its weakness.
The crowded Republican field made Donald Trump a huge winner with only 36 percent of the vote. The six remaining candidates split the remainder. Trump has bright prospects to win the Republican nomination, even though he is not a conservative and the Republican Party is the conservative party. I think he will not make a strong general election candidate.
John Kasich came in a somewhat surprising second with 16 percent of the vote. Where can he go from here? Jay Cost has some thoughts. It seems to me that Kasich is more likely to find a spot as a possible vice presidential candidate on a Trump ticket.
Ted Cruz (third), Jeb Bush (fourth) and Marco Rubio (fifth) more or less tied for third. Chris Christie came in sixth and should drop out along with Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson.
Rubio’s 10.8 percent of the vote suggests the Christie effect in the debate of this past Saturday night. Rubio himself acknowledged as much in his concession speech and vowed never to make the same mistake again.
Christie’s assault bit and I think the effect will linger. Christie’s assault was founded in part on Rubio’s role in the Gang of Eight. Rubio has never accounted or repented for the role he played in the Gang of Eight. He seems to think he can talk his way out of any corner. That was the gist of Christie’s assault and the reason for its bite, in my view, lies in the Gang of Eight.
Unlike Rubio, Jeb of course portrayed the outcome last night as some kind of a victory. I don’t think Bush’s performance was impressive and it is not apparent to me that he has anywhere to go either, but he has the will and the resources to (try to) prove such doubts wrong.
After Iowa, it seemed to me that we had a three-man race among Trump, Cruz and Rubio. After last night I think it’s a two-man race between Trump and Cruz, and that the advantage goes to Trump.
As for a prospective general election contest between Trump or Cruz and Clinton or Sanders, I have my thoughts, but I will hold them for the moment until the prospect becomes more certain.