Is the Democratic Party nomination not quite the one horse race it was three months ago?
Let us think back to late November 2015 when Hillary Clinton had a considerable lead over her opponent Bernie Sanders. A 28-point margin lead (a lead she hasn't matched since), according to a CNN/ORC poll. Suddenly we wake to the news a few days ago that Clinton has been defeated in New Hampshire by the first ever Jewish-American to win a primary in American history and the only Socialist Senator in Congress.
The question being proposed at the moment is what caused this decline in Clinton support? And, surely, where has this support for the 74 year old Senator from Vermont come from? Mobilising young, disenchanted, voters has been an essential piece to the puzzle of political success around the world, from Syriza to Podemos. Senator Sanders knows this and when promising free University education and greater social services he wins the minds and hearts of young people. While Clinton’s support seems to have fallen, Sanders has rocketed in opinion polls and has gone from averaging in the mid 20 per cent area to pushing almost 40 per cent approval in most opinion polls, such as in the Ipsos/Reuters one, where Sanders stands at 39 per cent approval. He has now earned victory in New Hampshire by 22 percentage points and his campaign has unquestionable evidence of ability to succeed on state level. It would be foolish to exaggerate Sanders victory in the grand scheme of the nomination process and at the same time, to talk doom and gloom about Clinton’s campaign is ill-timed.
Looking even forward, things are not great for the former First Lady by any means. Late on Tuesday night, according to early exit polls reported by CNN, Sanders led among women voters by about 10 percentage points. Clinton is really pushing the ‘being the first female President’ card (and why not) but surely she needs woman to support her campaign for this dream to become a reality. Women are clearly ‘feeling the bern’ and Clinton and her campaign team have a serious issue on their hands.
Is Donald Trump now unstoppable?
Donald Trump left New Hampshire after what could be the first step in achieving something deemed impossible and for which he was indeed laughed at not too long ago. This was not a close race by any means and the polls were not deceptive to us this time round. Trump won big time (as he emphatically stressed). He received 10 delegates with a 35 per cent vote share while Senator Ted Cruz received only two delegates with just under 12 per cent of the vote. This gives Trump a seven delegate lead over Cruz, his nearest rival for nomination.
Who, then, is to be Trump’s closest competitor if not Cruz? We can rest assured that Trump will attempt to dismiss and dismantle Ted Cruz’s campaign following his poor showing at New Hampshire much like he did with Jeb Bush’s campaign at the beginning of the race. Moreover, Ted Cruz’s campaign seems to have faltered much like Marco Rubio’s, and this could allow, finally, Jeb Bush to rise through the opinion polls after a better than expected showing in New Hampshire. Lastly, an unlikely charge from John Kasich could be on the cards as he appeals to the party’s moderate wings and could therefore appeal to Democrat inclined voters in the Presidential election – something Trump certainly lacks.
So what about John Kasich – does he stand a chance?
15.8 per cent of the popular vote and 4 delegates later and John Kasich announced himself on the 2016 Republican presidential nominee stage. John Kasich, Governor of Ohio since 2010 and Congressmen from 1981 to 2001, has presented shows on Fox News and is seen as a moderate Republican in comparison to Trump, Cruz and Rubio. He benefited from Jeb Bush’s inability to take make the case for moderate conservatism. Kasich’s positive campaign has evidently struck a cord with voters in the New Hampshire town halls, a state where he has been focusing most of his election effort. This, twinned with his super PAC flooding the local television channels with ads, lead to wide reaching name recognition across the state.
Kasich is anti-abortion, which seems to be essential to gain nomination in a republican presidential race, however he does have centre-left features in his position such as an acceptance that climate change exists and a belief in basic social redistribution to help the poorest in society. His ability to make a difference in this race depends on two main factors: The first being finance – if he fails to raise money to maintain the momentum and ‘bounce’ that comes from such a result then his campaign shall simply fizzle out and fold. This might be his biggest challenge. Kasich will be struggling to finance his campaign going forward, especially competing with financial giants currently in the race such as Trump, Cruz and Bush.
This brings us to the second worry about Kasich, which is Jeb Bush. Jeb and John both come across as the moderate conservatives of the 2016 GOP field. The trouble for Kasich is that he does not have the financial power that Jeb has in his back pocket. Jeb is by no means out of the race and this could be, as his campaign team have stated, the springboard he needed. This is a worry to team Kasich as Kasich and Bush are both vying for the same demography of voters, but only one can viably take their campaign in to the further depths of this nomination process. This magazine’s guess is that Kasich’s stock shall slowly simmer down to a point where he comes to an agreement with Jeb to cease his campaign whilst part of the agreement entails Kasich gaining a prominent role in Jeb Bush’s executive team in 2017 should he win.
And what happened to Marco Rubio - wasn't he the one to challenge Trump?
If there was an award for ‘ruin your Presidential campaign in 5 minutes’ then Marco Rubio would have won it again and again and again. This is of course reference to the fact Rubio’s meltdown in the 8th Republican Debate in New Hampshire suffering from a Milibandesque episode of self-repetition. Christie expertly tore the young Senator’s campaign in to shreds and depicted Rubio as a Washington puppet and Rubio seemed happy to oblige to the stereotype by once again repeating his 25 second soundbite in response to Christie’s angered criticism which drew rapturous applause. Marco Rubio, who was 4 per cent off Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucus finds himself 25 per cent away from the winner of New Hampshire, Donald Trump.
It must be said that it seems unlikely now that Rubio can recover from such a poor showing at New Hampshire. His campaign has taken a fatal hit.
What about the future?
So what are our overall conclusions from New Hampshire? Sanders is more popular that we could have ever imagined, but Clinton is still the big favourite to win the nomination. Polls have regained their credibility for now. Trump’s campaign is a well ran ship. Rubio’s campaign is over. Bush shall rise. Kasich is a nice guy. Does anyone really like Ted Cruz?