All Eyes, Ears and Candidates are on New Hampshire

The Democratic Race is Clear, but the Republican Race is Not

The Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary could be key for Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio. (DonkeyHotey/Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons)
The Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary could be key for Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio. (DonkeyHotey/Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons)

The presidential candidates and their entourages, along with the troves of journalists following what may be the most fascinating horse race in modern history, have moved on from the flat, so-called American heartland to the similarly cold, first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire for its Feb. 9th contest.

That was not before, however, the epic division — virtually down the middle — among Hawkeye Democratic caucus-goers. They were torn between the traditional Democrat, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the self-proclaimed democratic socialist, who hopes to start a political revolution Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The tension seemed so thick and so strong that it could cause a rubber band to snap. Clinton was proclaimed the winner early Tuesday morning, narrowly beating out Sanders in what was a virtual tie.

Although Clinton readily accepted the victory — and the 23 district level candidates — in the first state caucus, the 0.2 percentage point difference in the final polls ensured in the Democratic caucus's proportional delegate selection that Sanders would receive 21 delegates from the results.

SEE ALSO: Sanders Talks His Issues During End of Evening Speech

Even though Sanders did not come out on top, the final tally was enough to show the effects of the Vermont senator's efforts. He has drastically risen in both national and state polls because of his overarching anti-Wall Street, anti-establishment message, along with his successful online campaign financing.

Clinton has been fighting to retain her once-large lead in Democratic polls by taking on a more aggressive debate persona; proclaiming to voters that she is the only candidate experienced and capable enough to take on the tough job of presidency.

The win makes Clinton the first woman in history to win the Iowa caucuses. The final tallies were equally record-breaking — the closest ever in caucus history.

The third and final candidate in the Democratic race, Martin O'Malley, polled at 0.5 percent. The former Md. Gov. suspended his campaign just one week after telling potential Iowa caucus-goers that he could be the "compassionate, generous and inclusive" candidate that America needs at the CNN Presidential Town Hall Forum in Des Moines.

SEE ALSO: Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O'Malley Suspends Campaign

On the Republican side, Ted Cruz ended the night in triumph after beating out Donald Trump by over 3 percent of the votes, at 27.6 percent and 24.3 percent, respectively. This victory was likely due to the large base of Evangelical voters in Iowa. These voters usually show up in large numbers at caucuses and primaries because of their commitment to their beliefs.

Despite Trump's disdain for "losers," the real estate mogul (who opted out of the most recent Fox News-moderated Republican debate) did not count the second place finish as a loss.

In his post-caucus speech, Trump congratulated Cruz and said he was honored to have finished second among the 12 Republican candidates. But by Wednesday, he went on a Twitter rant and said the vote should be voided or there should be a new election because, he claims, Cruz engaged in fraudulent conduct.

Although Republican caucuses are winner-take-all, Marco Rubio's third place finish was still significant for the Florida senator. His ranking placed Rubio in first out of the Republican establishment candidates, beating Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

Bush and Christie, however, remain in the race. Some of Bush's supporters in particular are looking for the Florida governor to drop out in order to shift their attention to Rubio and fight for an establishment win. Neither Bush nor Christie have suspended their campaigns.

Three-fourths of the Republican field polled below 10 percent, yet only two of those candidates have called it quits. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee announced the suspension of his campaign Monday night on Twitter after polling at 1.8 percent among Iowa caucus-goers. His withdrawal is sure to give Cruz and/or retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson a boost because he appealed to the same kind of voter.

Ky. Sen. Rand Paul, who is a libertarian, dropped out of the race Wednesday morning. Rick Santorum dropped out Wednesday afternoon.

SEE ALSO: Iowans Pick Trump Second

Just as everybody shifts their attention to the Granite State, the polls' attention shifts as well.

Trump has consistently been the strong frontrunner, polling ahead of the candidates who have jockeyed in and out of position behind him. In Iowa, Cruz gave him a run for his money, especially in the final weeks of the campaign, but the Texas senator is not likely to be a factor in New Hampshire.

The main, and perhaps most important, difference between the two first-in-the-nation states is the percentage of the Evangelical vote in the Republican Party. It was 64 percent in Iowa, but it is only 22 percent in New Hampshire. Therefore, the key match-up is going to be between Trump and the establishment.

Even though Trump was ahead in Iowa — albeit not by as much — he still lost, and that possibility exists in New Hampshire. The question is: which establishment candidate — Rubio, Bush, Christie or Kasich (although not everyone believes he is establishment) — will come out ahead?

Rubio has the most to gain and the most to lose because of his victory in Iowa. A win in New Hampshire, or at least among the establishment group, solidifies him as the establishment candidate, which is a title that can bring in lots of donations. Those donations can turn into more support, which could put him on a road to Super Tuesday, and thus the nomination. A loss for the others in the group, however, opens the position of establishment leader up to the field. Rubio will be a true test of Iowa's momentum.

If Trump were to win, he could be perched atop the Republican field once again. He would gain the morale boost and the momentum, which would only benefit him in Nevada, South Carolina and on Super Tuesday. It would also bring back supporters who left or began to doubt the real estate mogul after his lower than expected performance in Iowa.

In the latest poll, conducted by UMass Lowell and 7News from Jan. 30 through Feb. 1, Trump had the support of 38 percent of Republican likely voters. He is followed by Cruz with 14 percent, Rubio with 10 percent, Kasich and Bush with 9 percent and Christie with 5 percent. This poll was taken before the Iowa caucuses, so the results' effects are not fully realized. They are, though, great because they could bolster Rubio's support at the expense of the others.

SEE ALSO: Trump and the Road Never Traveled

Rubio could very well see his standing go up after his third place — first among the establishment — finish in the Hawkeye State. Cruz could stay up, but that is unlikely given the differences in the electorate. If Rubio does rise in the next poll, he will likely come in first among the establishment in the Feb. 9 primary.

If one of the other so-called establishment candidates comes in first among the group, then the Rubio's status is thrown up in the air. If Cruz is able to stay on top, he should then be considered a legitimate challenge to Trump and the establishment in the Granite State.

Kasich has been recently improved his standing in the state, with his more moderate thinking and policy positions generally fit better with the typical New Hampshire voter than the typical Iowa caucus-goer. He, like Christie, is making a legitimate run in New Hampshire, unlike he did in Iowa.

Christie did receive the endorsement of the Manchester Union-Leader, which has been called New Hampshire's "most influential paper." Polls immediately following the announcement, which happened on Nov. 28, indicate it gave the governor a boost, which lasted until early January. He then began to fall, and with few exceptions continued on the downward trend, which suggests he may have peaked too early.

Given their roots, Kasich, who is from Ohio, and Christie who is from New Jersey, may be able to give Rubio a serious challenge. That would especially be the case for Kasich who is only trailing the Florida senator by 1 percentage point in the UMass Lowell and 7News poll and if Rubio cannot capitalize on his third place finish in Iowa.

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On the Democratic side, Sanders has consistently been polling ahead of Clinton. Even though that may be in large part due his home being in neighboring Vermont, first place is still first place.

In the UMass and 7News poll, Sanders was leading Clinton in Democratic likely voters 61 percent to 32 percent. Like with the Republicans, this does not take into effect Sanders' finish in Iowa, which could give him a boost because of how close he came to beating Clinton.

Since 1972, when a candidate from a bordering state has run, he has not lost to anyone except an incumbent president. Clinton and her campaign are writing off New Hampshire, but a close contest – given geography and his lead – would be a blow to Sanders.

If Sanders can dominate, like he is currently doing in the polls, it would give his campaign a huge morale boost, which would add to the positives from Iowa. It could also give him the momentum needed to win Nevada, where he has 12 field offices. He is a long shot in South Carolina.

The biggest factor in the New Hampshire primary, as is always the case, is the voting bloc that is not declared to either party because those voters can vote for either Democrats or Republicans. The latest poll found that 40 percent of the voters in this category who were surveyed would vote Republican while 33 percent said Democratic. These voters could make the difference on the Republican side, especially when it comes to which member of the establishment finishes atop that group.

Staff Reporter Ali Main co-reported this story.

Reach News Editor Max Schwartz here; follow him on Twitter here.

Reach Staff Reporter Ali Main here; follow her on Twitter here.