Tuesday, February 9, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: “The French aristocracy never saw it coming either.” Billboard in New York City.
Welcome to the American Singularity
Donald J. Trump won the New Hampshire Primary Election – securing at least a footnote in American political history. Senator Bernie Sanders, too, won his party’s contest, reinforcing the notion that Hillary Clinton’s hold on the Democratic party is tenuous at best. Establishmentarians from both the GOP and the Democrats are sitting watching their cable news networks and Twitter feeds trying to figure out how this happened. Sitting inside the Beltway, at their offices in K Street, Capitol Hill or Old Town, New Hampshire’s results don’t exist in the real world. They’re the result of a long night of drinking, playing out worst-case, but never-gonna-happen scenarios.
1. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump take their respective parties in drastically different directions. Rather than finding consensus, the activist (and angry) voters of both parties are not looking for someone to “get things done” – they’re looking for someone who will carry the torches and pitchforks at the head of the march through Washington.
2. We knew it inherently before, but we know for sure now. A lot of Republican primary voters dislike their own party more than the Democrats. They see DC Republicans as turncoats and soft – that’s worse than being a political opponent.
3. Marco Rubio may or may not be right about Barack Obama changing the United States, but he’s certainly changed the Democratic Party. In New Hampshire tonight, according to exit polls, more than 80% of Democratic respondents said they would expand or keep Obama’s policies.
4. The Republican field will narrow somewhat but is now truly a scramble. Trump and Cruz both have wins in early states and stronger-than-expected finishes in those they lost. Their ability to continuing stoking the anger of disaffected Republicans and conservatives is key to keeping their momentum. The Establishment and/or traditional wing now has three potential phoenixes in John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
He’s a winner again! He beat all those losers! Trump needed a win tonight and he got a big one. He was able to hold the early support he found in New Hampshire and turned it into a potentially historic night for the Republican Party and the country. His simple, direct and plainspoken manner has attracted millions of outraged Americans to Trump’s cause. Now he takes a head of steam into South Carolina and beyond, able to capitalize on his electoral success and leverage his ability to consume the airwaves.
Ohio Governor John Kasich played by the classic New Hampshire blueprint to finish second tonight. Be a little mavericky, be a little cranky, be a little flinty and do a zillion town hall meetings where you take the good questions, the bad questions and you answer them all. Kasich understood the need to appeal to the last of the Blue Dog Democrats to come across the aisle and propel his candidacy into the next phase.
The Cruz-Trump duopoly scares the hell out of Washington, DC. And tonight, Cruz finished neck and neck with Jeb Bush; stronger than he (or anyone else) likely expected. New Hampshire clearly wasn’t Cruz Country, but given the dynamics of the race, between anger, folks who wouldn’t vote for Trump and Rubio’s late fumble, Cruz will take a solid finish tonight into much friendly turf in the Palmetto State next week.
Bush needed a strong night tonight and he got it. Had he finished fifth or worse, the case for him continuing would be difficult to make. However, a late surge got him into the arena and into the discussion allowing Jeb to continue his fight. His campaign and super PAC will likely get a boost in fundraising. It’s still a long, long way to the nomination for Jeb but South Carolina is a friendly state for the Bush family, and Jeb can attempt to regain the mantle of frontrunner as the campaign moves south.
Moments matter. That’s the lesson Marco Rubio and his campaign learned this week. His repeated missteps during Saturday night’s debate clearly had an effect on his finish tonight. More than blunting his momentum coming out of Iowa, Rubio now takes a 3rd and 5th place finish into South Carolina. It may also prove that while Marco enjoys broad support nationally, his electoral strength in the early states is shallow. The inability or unwillingness of his campaign to focus more on the ground may be coming back to haunt them. And as he heads for the next contest, the unrelenting attacks from Right to Rise, Jeb Bush’s super PAC, will likely intensify.
Bernie Sanders has the young people and the old people in the Democratic party on his side. He’s a 74 year old socialist from Vermont and liberal youth are gaga for him. Tying Hillary in Iowa was a good deal for him. Winning New Hampshire was a huge deal for him. Sanders will raise boatloads more cash off his win tonight (he actually solicited donations during his speech) and continue to force Hillary Clinton into more and more liberal positions, and more and more out of step with her real self as the primaries continue.
A state that saved her campaign eight years ago handed her a stinging defeat tonight. She fell behind Sanders in the Granite State sometime last fall and never made a real show of it. New Hampshire voters are nothing if not bullshit detectors and they could smell it a mile away with Clinton. Her speech was a fiery recitation of liberal tropes and talking points. She sped through it, without the benefit of any art or poetry, beating feet out of the state as fast as she could. The rumors of staff shakeups don’t help her cause – she has the best in the business on her team. At some point she’s going to have to look in the mirror and decide who she really is.
If anyone thought that campaign in New Hampshire got a little nasty in its closing days, they haven’t seen anything yet. South Carolina is the definition of bareknuckle brawling. The rules are out the window in the Palmetto State. Nothing is off-limits as far too many candidates and campaigns have learned the hard way. It is also a much different state than either Iowa or New Hampshire: It has multiple media markets and multiple regions, all with their own unique character. Those Republicans left, and who qualify, will debate again this coming Saturday night. With a field that is likely to narrow to about five contenders, that get together will be a wild one. In Charleston, Irmo, Florence and Spartanburg, the GOP contenders will duke it out for the next 12 days. It will be worth watching.