Post New Hampshire, Trump Clear Favorite with Four Plausible Challengers

The GOP field is now down to five.

Vote 2016

Bernie Sanders’ blowout victory in New Hampshire has Hillary Clinton supporters in a panic, but there’s every reason to believe this was Sander’s peak. His populist, anti-establishment message clearly resonates with Democratic voters. Maybe, as Matt Yglesias contends, that message is the party’s future. But Clinton is  positioned to do very well in a two-way race. Her organizational and financial advantage will matter much more once multiple states start voting in rapid succession. And his advantage with enthusiastic, young whites will matter less in more diverse states.

The Republican contest remains much more interesting. The runaway winner was the racist demagogue Donald Trump, who more than doubled any rival’s vote total. He’s also the only candidate to finish in the top two in Iowa and New Hampshire. Still, he only got 35.1% to go along with his 24.3% in Iowa. While impressive numbers in a crowded field, they may be his ceiling, with the sane Republican vote split among several candidates.

Ted Cruz, the main Evangelical candidate, looks to be finishing in what he rightly and graciously referred to as a “virtual tie for third place” to go along with his Iowa win. Obviously, he goes forward.

Marco Rubio, who came in third in Iowa but stumbled badly in Saturday’s debate, finished 5th in New Hampshire, with 10.6%. That’s a serious loss of momentum but he has every reason to continue.

My two favorites in the race, John Kasich and Jeb Bush, got a new lease on life. Kasich finished in 2nd, with 15.9%. Bush is sitting just behind Cruz with 11.1%; they’ll both get the same two delegates regardless of whether they trade positions.

Chris Christie, who finished a distant 6th, is done. There’s no reason to think that his New Jersey brand will play better in the South than it did in the Granite State. And he’ll apparently not be invited to the next debate.

Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Jim Gilmore should never have been in the race. They’re doing so poorly that it scarcely matters whether they pull out.

The not-Trump field, then, consists of Cruz and three Establishment candidates. So long as it remains divided, Trump has a huge advantage. I haven’t the foggiest whether Rubio will regain his Iowa momentum or Kasich will somehow translate his retail appeal to a wholesale campaign. Or perhaps Bush will finally be worthy of that exclamation point.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    Kasich would be a good candidate for the general, but I think he has problems in the primary going forward. Bush has already started attacking him, and it will get far nastier. Bush’s rationale seems to be “I have the money to go forward” which completely ignores the level of Bush Family Fatigue that I think is present not only in the Republican voting population but in the general public. I still think it will break down into a Trump v. Cruz race.

    It’s also probably not Rubio’s year. He’d do well to patch his wounds and get back to the Senate and actually accomplish something. Run for Governor, learn what it means to be an executive, and then run. He’s young and has plenty of time.

  2. Castanea says:

    Clinton is accused of “losing” these states despite her advantage, but the self-assured, idiosyncratic, contrarian, stubborn and independent commonwealth states were always going to be Sander’s territory and Iowa is snow-white. Clinton is “establishment” or “Washington” and that is “bad”. She would have to pull something unprecedented to be comabtive there.

    Frankly, I think Sanders having no chance in diverse states like South Carolina or Nevada is just as “unfair” as Clinton being rejected in the Northeast. Neither candidate is so easily profiled and both are in concordance on critical issues. You think Sanders will allow one SCOTUS nominee that doesn’t have a perfect history of pro-choice opinionating? You think Clinton will sell out the climate or won’t try to stop Citizens United? Sanders would try to do something about discrimination against black people. Clinton would try to do something about student loans. Perhaps not to the same degree or with the same prioritization, but they would go in the right direction.

    It’s just optics, convictions and a lack of information. Any democrat should be very happy with either Clinton or Sanders and stop acting as if the other would be a disappointment. The only real issue is electability. I doubt Sanders can bring enough non-Whites to beat the MSM mantra that he is a scary commie – that’s the message the generic, low-info masses will take in because they only hear about politics by “accident”.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    James, you must be so proud that your party is going to nominate this ass-hat.
    You can keep praying for Kasich or Rubio or Bush or some other white-knight you imagine is different…but the havoc wreaked on the party by years of lying and pandering to the base has come home to roost.
    Enjoy….

  4. gVOR08 says:

    Maybe there’s polling that addresses the question, but I don’t really think Bush’s problem is Bush Family Fatigue. This is the Republican primary where W isn’t as much a dead weight as he’d be in the general. I think Little Jebbie!’s problem is that while he’s a great fundraiser (thanks to family connections), he’s a surprisingly poor candidate, and doesn’t seem to be running a very good campaign. After Prescott and H. W., W and Jeb are the third generation of the family business, and there seems to be a rule about that.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Yeah. James is counting on the “sane Republican vote”. But he needs a majority.

  6. Mu says:

    I got a weird argument yesterday about the strong advantage Clinton has over Sanders in the black vote – food envy. Basically it was framed as “the blacks already get all the stuff free, so Sanders
    free stuff for everyone campaign threatens their position”. As it came from a Trump fan I was skeptical, but has anyone seen a reasonable explanation why Clinton does so well in that demographic?

  7. Console says:

    @Mu:

    Minorities have more skin in the game and can’t afford to go chasing after dream candidates that will lose the general election.

  8. Tillman says:

    Why do we use the word “electability”? Why aren’t we using the word image? Is it because we think we’re not rationalizing a gut instinct?

  9. Moosebreath says:

    @Console:

    That is certainly part of it, but another is that Sanders is a bit of a late comer on minority outreach, coming from a state with effectively no blacks or Hispanics. Also, Clinton did better among Hispanics than Obama 8 years ago. As a result, the minority groups are going with someone they know and trust.

  10. JMarcusse says:

    Congrats to Governor Gilmore on getting more votes than half the candidates that have dropped out.

  11. bookdragon says:

    @Mu: I think there’s both HRC’s history working for Civil Rights, going back to her law school days, and a certain degree of empathy. Minorities see the crap throw at her and have a certain degree of empathy for her in the same way women of my age do – what she’s had to deal with, and continues to deal with, mirrors our experience.

    I think this piece gets at the heart of it. If you read the comments, you’ll see several people of color chiming in with ‘dittos’:

    https://www.balloon-juice.com/2016/02/08/excellent-read-progressive/

    (which isn’t to say that she’s my preferred candidate, but that I will vote for her ahead of any of the GOP clown car and do so without holding my nose)

  12. Franklin says:

    @Moosebreath: Also, Bill Clinton was occasionally called the first black president.

  13. J-Dub says:

    @Jen: Go back to the Senate as what? Not a Senator, as he isn’t running for re-election and his term will be up. I guess he could be a page.

  14. MBunge says:

    @Console: Minorities have more skin in the game and can’t afford to go chasing after dream candidates that will lose the general election.

    It’s the downside of a group voting overwhelmingly for one party. You don’t have a whole lot of options, so you are very vulnerable to being buffaloed into supporting whomever the party establishment gives you.

    Which isn’t to say that minorities don’t have legitimate reasons to prefer the Democrats over the GOP but this is one of the reasons why it’s not good for them or anyone.

    Mike

  15. Jen says:

    @J-Dub: I meant, finish out his term. He has just under a year before the next senate is sworn in, maybe he can get his voting average up.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @J-Dub:

    I guess he (Rubio) could be a (Senate) page.

    Ah, the old Peter Principle, where people end up one promotion above their real skill level.

  17. Hal_10000 says:

    Lets dispel this fiction that Marco Rubio knows what he’s doing. He has no idea what he’s doing.

  18. PJ says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Lets dispel this fiction that Marco Rubio knows what he’s doing. He has no idea what he’s doing.

    Norman Braman does.

  19. Joe says:

    @Mu: I suspect the reason that organized minority groups prefer Clinton over Sanders comes from the fact that they are “organized.” Organized groups have memories, agendas, mile stone goals and understand that the arc of justice is long. It is not surprising that they prefer a candidate who has been working their issued for a long time and demonstrates an understanding that very slow and incremental “progress” is preferable to posturing.

    By comparison, Sanders fans (like Trump fans) believe him when he says he’s going to walk into the oval office and fix everything they don’t like before heading out to his inaugural ball that evening. His fans for the most part aren’t organized, have no memories and would be outraged if Sanders were elected and accomplished only incremental changes toward their agenda.

  20. Moosebreath says:

    @PJ:

    “Norman Braman does.”

    Only if he’s better at politics than at running the Philadelphia Eagles, where he let one of the all-time great defenses in the early 1990’s fall apart because he would not pay to keep Reggie White, et al in free agency. I think he reached his competency level with his group of car dealerships.

  21. ElizaJane says:

    @Mu: On connecting to minorities: Hillary brought up the lead poisoning in Flint at a debate soon after it happened, and has gone to Flint to talk with people there. Bernie has made a breakfast date at an iconic NYC diner with Al Sharpton and touts the endorsement of Harvard/Princeton professor Cornell West.

    Which of these do you think resonates the most with African-American voters? I’m guessing that Hillary has her finger on the pulse of what they actually care about, but as a white person I could certainly be wrong.

  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Frankly, she has worked her tail off to ensure that she capitalized on innate African American support for her campaign. Part of that is undoubtedly tied to residual affection for Obama through Clinton’s association among African-Americans with his presidency, but her outreach to this key demographic has been and remains both deep and wide.

    For example, she’s been pushing policy rollouts designed to attract AA support since before her campaign started. Private meetings with AA leaders all over the place, and targeted surrogates to extend that reach farther. She’s devoted a significant amount of money to ad buys on AA media outlets, in which she specifically ties herself to Obama by highlighting her service in his presidency. Scores of meetings with AA mothers whose children have been the victims of gun violence. Targeted interviews with AA leaders like Sharpton, Roland Martin & April Ryan. Hell, she has Star Jones campaigning for her in AA churches and she’s turned the enlistment of AA sororities as ground forces into an art form.

    In short, she is enjoying their support because she’s earned it. Sanders outreach efforts, in comparison, have been minimal, and what little he has done has had a tendency to backfire due to cultural missteps. For better or worse, and regardless of whether it’s actually a fair assessment, he tends to come across to AA voters as Mr. White as Wonder Bread, disconnected from their reality and utterly out of tune with their issues.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    Which of these do you think resonates the most with African-American voters?

    That’s the irony of all of this…for all of her reputation as plodding and clumsy as a candidate, she has a stronger connection with the minority community than he does…indeed, particularly with blacks, he seems to be the one who is plodding and clumsy…

  24. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: @gVOR08: Both Sanders and Trump point to this as a cycle that’s simply different, with a huge portion of the electorate simply disgusted by business as usual. Trump is more likely than Sanders to capitalize on that and get the nomination and conceivably even get elected. But he also got only 34% of the vote in a category that he shares only with Ben Carson, who’s now a non-factor. While Kasich, Bush, Rubio, and Christie got a fraction of Trump’s vote, together they’re still near a majority. If there’s a clear Establishment guy soon, with the others dropping out, then I think it’s quite possible that that guy wins.

  25. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    I suspect that we’ll be down to three or four total after Super Tuesday. There won’t be enough oxygen left in the room by then to support more than 4.

  26. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: @HarvardLaw92: I think if the GOP isn’t down to two by March 15, and Trump remains, he becomes a very firm possibility, because that’s the day the GOP primary changes from proportional delegate allocation to winner-takes-all. And that includes New York’s 95 delegates and California’s 172. Those two states combine for about 21% of the delegates necessary for nomination, and if there are three or more candidates remaining, the not-Trumps could split the vote and hand Trump victory by plurality.

  27. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:
    You conveniently left out Cruz. When his insanity voters go over to Trump your hope-and-a-prayer goes to shit.

  28. Anonne says:

    This is a very thoughtful article about the Sanders/Clinton conflict:

    http://benjaminstudebaker.com/2016/02/05/why-bernie-vs-hillary-matters-more-than-people-think/

    It isn’t so much about getting stuff done, because with a Republican controlled Congress, neither will achieve much. The difference is whether or not the Democratic Party’s focus changes, if the economic issues that are hurting the working poor will get addressed. Under Sanders, that is more likely to occur, a more frequent use of the bully pulpit to make poverty an issue and make investments in infrastructure and people. It may not get done, but he is arguing from a stronger position rather than negotiating himself down to mediocrity at the beginning, like Obama did and for which he was criticized.

  29. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:
    And just try to tell me that Trumps xenophobic misogynistic mendacious emotion filled message isn’t going to rock the rafters in S. Carolina…where he leads the great white hope, Kasich, by 34 points.

  30. Moosebreath says:

    @Anonne:

    Interesting article, but I think the author is missing something. The New Deal/Great Society tradition among Democrats did not die because of an nefarious shift among the nominees. It shifted because the candidates that fit the tradition repeatedly lost overwhelmingly, including McGovern who was mentioned and Mondale who was not but fits the tradition very well.

    If Sanders wants to argue that times have changed and the public is open to a return to Democratic positions of the past, I am all ears. But I don’t see such a message succeeding either at the state or federal level in recent years, and I don’t think 2016 will be any different.

  31. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Beat me to it. I was going to point out that the old Reagan era fiscal/social/defense three legged stool now seems to be evangelical/ Tea Party/establishment; with a huge overlap between TP and evangelical. That large overlap makes it look like anti-establishment/establishment, but it isn’t quite. Seems to me it’s likely to come down to Trump and Cruz. If not, the Cruz voters are more likely to go to Trump than Rubio or the governor du jour.

    At the moment RCP shows Trump 29.5 and Cruz 21.0 for 50.5% between them. Add Carson’s 7.8 it’s 57.9. The other five active candidates total 31.1%.

  32. Grewgills says:

    Still, he only got 35.1% to go along with his 24.3% in Iowa. While impressive numbers in a crowded field, they may be his ceiling, with the sane Republican vote split among several candidates.

    Maybe it’s already been said, but you have to add Trump, Cruz, Carson, and Fiorina to get the real crazy vote total*. When you do that Iowa and NH you get 63.1% and 53.5% respectively. The Crazy Caucus is the clear majority. Pinning your hopes on more voters being for ‘not Trump’ isn’t so viable when the next strongest contender is Cruz and Carson still has supporters that are going to go somewhere crazy.

  33. Anonne says:

    @Moosebreath:

    The nominees lost because the electorate doesn’t understand what happened and is susceptible to media messaging. Many times, all the electorate does when angry is vote with the id – throw out whomever because clearly it’s their fault. “This happened on your watch, so goodbye” – without any real thought as to why things are the way they are. Stagflation provided an opening to throw out everything we knew about economics, and Keynes in particular. So even when Keynes proves right in the current crisis, people are still repeating the disproven 70s and 80s supply side economic principles as if an article of faith.

    We’ve been sold “trickle down economics” for almost forty years, and people put faith in it like it was religion. But people didn’t notice that the trickle is yellow.

  34. PJ says:

    @Mikey:

    I think if the GOP isn’t down to two by March 15, and Trump remains, he becomes a very firm possibility, because that’s the day the GOP primary changes from proportional delegate allocation to winner-takes-all. And that includes New York’s 95 delegates and California’s 172. Those two states combine for about 21% of the delegates necessary for nomination, and if there are three or more candidates remaining, the not-Trumps could split the vote and hand Trump victory by plurality.

    Before the WTA states there’s a number of states with thresholds for getting at-large delegates, and some of them also only gives district delegates to only the winner and the runner up.
    Depending on if the remaining candidates have any regional strongholds, then that could mean that none will get enough delegates to become the non-Trump candidate and get the rest to bow out.
    In New Hampshire, only two candidates got more than 15% and only one got more than 20%. The state has a 10% threshold, which five passed.

    States with at-Large-thresholds >= 10%

    Super Tuesday, March 1
    Alabama 20%
    Alaska 13%
    Arkansas 15%
    Georgia 20%
    Minnesota 10%
    Oklahoma 15%
    Tennessee 15%
    Texas 20%
    Vermont 20%

    March 5
    Kansas 10%
    Louisiana 20%
    Maine 10%

    March 6
    Puerto Rico 20%

    March 8
    Idaho 20%
    Michigan 15%
    Mississippi 15%

    March 12
    Washington DC 15%

  35. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Update: Christie has officially ended his campaign.

  36. PJ says:

    @Grewgills:

    The Crazy Caucus is the clear majority. Pinning your hopes on more voters being for ‘not Trump’ isn’t so viable when the next strongest contender is Cruz and Carson still has supporters that are going to go somewhere crazy.

    One thing is certain, after what happened in Iowa, Cruz is quite unlikely to get the Carson endorsement after Carson stops grifting and goes home.

  37. Grewgills says:

    @James Joyner:
    Those four got a total of 44.6% in NH and 29.6% in Iowa. I don’t know that I’d count that as a near majority, particularly in light of what I pointed out about the crazy caucus above.
    In short 53.5 > 44.6 and 63.1 >>> 29.6

  38. David M says:

    @Anonne:

    It isn’t so much about getting stuff done, because with a Republican controlled Congress, neither will achieve much. The difference is whether or not the Democratic Party’s focus changes, if the economic issues that are hurting the working poor will get addressed. Under Sanders, that is more likely to occur, a more frequent use of the bully pulpit to make poverty an issue and make investments in infrastructure and people. It may not get done, but he is arguing from a stronger position rather than negotiating himself down to mediocrity at the beginning, like Obama did and for which he was criticized.

    He’s promising more the Obama, but will deliver less. That doesn’t seem like something worth taking any kind of risk on. Voting for Sanders seems to be all risk and no reward. With the Republican majorities in Congress, it doesn’t seem like it’s a risk worth taking.

  39. MikeSJ says:

    @C. Clavin:

    That aint nothing, wait till Trump gets his hooks into the CA Republican party.

    I’m thinking it’s going to be a blow-out that puts the NH blow out to shame.

  40. MarkedMan says:

    I think your average Republican as well as members of the main stream media have trouble understanding Clinton’s appeal to the minority voter because the facts of how she got there simply doesn’t jibe with what they “know” about her, i.e. That she is a calculating shape shifter that has never really stood for anything. The reality is that she started out as a teenage Goldwater Republican who took it upon herself to campaign for him in minority neighborhoods because in her nativity she believed what the lily white Goldwater team had told her about how the Repub policies would really benefit the poor. But she was no idiot and that experience of actually meeting people and talking to them turned her into a democrat and led to her spending her college off time traveling to The south on her own dime to fight for civil rights. Her bent was policy more than marching but she did her share of those too. And the connections she made in the minority community became part of her team and she part of theirs. And that has remained consistent fornnearlyba half century.

  41. PJ says:

    @MikeSJ:

    That aint nothing, wait till Trump gets his hooks into the CA Republican party.

    I’m thinking it’s going to be a blow-out that puts the NH blow out to shame.

    Considering that the primary in California isn’t until June, it should already be over by then.

  42. Mikey says:

    @MikeSJ:

    That aint nothing, wait till Trump gets his hooks into the CA Republican party.

    172 delegates, 14% of those necessary for nomination, and California is winner-take-all.

    I weep for our country.

  43. PJ says:

    @Mikey:

    172 delegates, 14% of those necessary for nomination, and California is winner-take-all.

    I weep for our country.

    Would have mattered if California held its primary in March, it doesn’t.
    Also, only 10 of the 172 delegates are wta at-large delegates. Three are RNC delegates, and 159 are district level wta delegates.

  44. Mikey says:

    @PJ: Yeah, it’s pretty late, that’s true.

    But I still weep…

  45. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Update: Fiorina is out as well.

  46. gVOR08 says:

    @Anonne:

    So even when Keynes proves right in the current crisis, people are still repeating the disproven 70s and 80s supply side economic principles as if an article of faith.

    It isn’t so much “people” as our supposed elites.