My unsolicited predictions (and some thoughts) before the 2016 New Hampshire primary

My unsolicited predictions (and some thoughts) before the 2016 New Hampshire primary

Not a whole lot has changed since the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.

Even though Ted Cruz was able to pull off a win in the Hawkeye State, Donald Trump hasn’t lost the support of New Hampshire Republican primary voters. Surveys continue to show Trump with double-digit leads over his nearest rivals.

Marco Rubio did have some momentum after his third-place finish in Iowa, but his treacherous and robotic debate performance on Saturday squashed much of his positive media coverage. Instead of solidifying his second-place spot in New Hampshire, polling shows Rubio lumped together with three other candidates — John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Cruz — all vying for a silver medal in the Granite State.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders continues to beat Hillary Clinton in head-to-460xhead polling matchups in New Hampshire. The good news for Clinton, who eeked out a caucus victory in Iowa, is that tracking polls show her inching closer to Sanders, even though she is still behind by double digits.

Will Trump once again underperform his poll numbers? Can Clinton close the gap on Sanders? Does Rubio get the strong second-place finish he needs? Does Rubio get the strong second-place finish he needs? Does Rubio get the strong second-place finish he needs? Am I repeating myself?

These questions will be answered soon enough. But until then, I will give you my totally unsolicited predictions on what will unfold on Tuesday.

Republican New Hampshire primary winner: Donald Trump

I basically just cut and pasted my Iowa caucus prediction here and replaced it with “New Hampshire primary winner.” I promise, this time I’ll get it right!

Donald Trump has been leading in this state for months and his second-place challengers don’t even come close to beating him, which was never true in Iowa. His strong — and dare I say tame — debate performance on Saturday will probably cement his support here.donald_august_19_cropped

Plus, Rubio’s debate flop is likely to keep the second-place vote divided up between at least four different candidates. That will only benefit Trump.

Speaking of Rubio, he must finish decisively in second if he wants to set this race up to be the Trump vs. Rubio contest that he needs it to be. If the second-place traffic jam continues, it will only give candidates like Bush and Kasich incentive to stay in the race and continue to siphon off voters that Rubio has to win.

A Trump win in New Hampshire will set the billionaire up nicely for the next contest in South Carolina, and it will give him strong footing in a handful of southern states — where he already has leads — that hold their contests on March 1.

Democratic New Hampshire primary winner: Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has a lot of things going for him in New Hampshire. First of all, he’s from neighboring Vermont, and as Bill Clinton recently pointed out: “Nobody from a state bordering New Hampshire has ever lost a Democratic primary to a non-incumbent president.”bernie_sanders_19197909424_cropped

Sanders, who performs well with white liberals, will also benefit from the state’s low minority population that trends toward Clinton. The Vermont senator also leads among independent voters who will likely play play a huge part in determining each party’s winner.

Sanders currently leads in just about every existing poll of the state, but many surveys show the race tightening. It’s almost a certainty that Clinton will lose in New Hampshire, but if she manages to finish within single digits of Sanders — which is still an uphill climb — then she could come away with momentum heading into a South Carolina contest where she is heavily favored.

Sanders can — and needs to — win big on Tuesday. But if Clinton can find a way to reduce his margin of victory, look for her to steal her husband’s title of New Hampshire’s “Comeback Kid.”

My current prediction record: 1-1

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Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing

Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing

Like a pull toy, Marco Rubio kept repeating the same line over and over again in Saturday night’s Republican debate: “Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Let’s explore this theory a little bit.

After nearly two full terms of President Obama, how has the country fared as a whole? To paraphrase Republican savior Ronald Reagan: Is the United States better off now than when Obama took office?

In the president’s first year, the unemployment rate hit a staggering 10 percent as the economy was bleeding about 800,000 jobs per month. Today, on the heels of a record-breaking 71 straight months of job growth and over 14 millgiphyion jobs added to the economy, the jobless rate stands at 4.9 percent — cut by over half.

“Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing.”

In 2009, the American auto industry was bottoming out and could’ve collapsed. The Obama Administration’s auto rescue didn’t just prevent a collapse and save over a million jobs, but car sales in 2015 reached record levels.

Over the last seven years, the rate of uninsured Americans has fallen to the lowest level in history as over 15 million Americans have gained health insurance under the ACA.

“Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing.”
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Corporate profits have risen nearly 200 percent while real weekly wages have gone up by 3.5 percent.

The federal deficit has been cut by two-thirds.

Gas prices have fallen dramatically. Domestic oil production is up, and the U.S. is exporting oil for the first time in 40 years.

High school dropouts are down. Wind and solar power have tripled. A historic climate change accord was reached with 195 other nations. Iran’s nuclear wings have been clipped, Osama bin Laden is dead, and there are 165,000 fewer American troops fighting in the Middle East.

Perhaps Marco Rubio is right; maybe Barack Obama does know exactly what he’s doing.

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Somebody change Marco Rubio’s batteries

Somebody change Marco Rubio’s batteries

Marco Rubio had the wind at his back. After successfully framing his third-place finish in Iowa as a victory and inching his way into second place in a handful of New Hampshire primary polls, the Florida senator looked poised to be the anti-Donald Trump candidate going into Tuesday’s contest.

Then Saturday night’s debate happened.

Not only did Rubio fail to fend off an onslaught of attacks about his inexperience – namely from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – but his defense was literally the same memorized line. I almost felt sorry for the young fella.

As Politico noted, “Rubio awkwardly pivoted four times to a well-rehearsed line” about President Barack Obama. The senator went into the night with momentum and “ended it as a viral glitch sensation,” the publication reported.

See the video of Rubio’s broken record moment below.

Rubio’s poor performance came days after Rick Santorum, who just endorsed the Florida senator, couldn’t name a single thing Rubio has accomplished in the senate.

Some rehearsed lines sound wonderful on the first listen, but 10 months and eight debates into his campaign, Marco Rubio might want to ask his advisers to cook him up some new material.

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OOPS: Rick Santorum can’t name a single Marco Rubio accomplishment

OOPS: Rick Santorum can’t name a single Marco Rubio accomplishment

Rick Santorum recently dropped out of the Republican primary race and endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Unfortunately for Rubio, Santorum’s new role as a surrogate doesn’t look to be going so well. When asked by Joe Scarborough to name one accomplishment Rubio has had during his time in the U.S. Senate, Santorum couldn’t do it:

I suppose in order for Rubio to accomplish anything in the Senate, he’d have to actually show up for work. Instead, his top accomplishment, according to Rick Santorum, is that he has “tremendous potential.”

Eek.

Marco Rubio had the most insane response to President Obama’s mosque visit

Marco Rubio had the most insane response to President Obama’s mosque visit

If you think Marco Rubio is the sane, electable Republican in the field of 2016 candidates, his response to President Barack Obama’s visit to a Baltimore mosque should force you to reconsider.

After he visited and delivered a speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday, Obama was widely praised from all corners of the political world. Even ultraconservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt lauded the president’s remarks:

In his speech, Obama offered a message consistent with the American values of religious freedom and tolerance, and he put forward a stark contrast to the “inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslims” that Rubio and other Republican candidates have been spewing for months.

“Let me say as clearly as I can as president of the United States: you fit right here,” Obama said to those in attendance. “You’re right where you belong. You’re part of America too. You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.”04obamawebb-master675-v3

“Together, we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths,” the president added.

Obama’s speech was not just a rebuke of GOP rhetoric, but also a strong rejection of the message ISIS has been pushing to recruit more members: that Muslims aren’t welcome in the U.S.

Rubio, on the other hand, gave this inexplicable response, as reported by the Washington Post:

“I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done,” Rubio said. “Always pitting people against each other. Always.”

“Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque,” Rubio continued. “Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam… [I]t’s this constant pitting people against each other – that I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly.”

Said like a man who truly didn’t watch or listen to the president’s speech.

As Steve Benen of MSNBC noted, it’s actually pretty remarkable that an address with such unifying themes could be painted as an attempt to divide the country. Either the Florida senator didn’t listen to it, or his comprehension skills are lacking.

This should surprise no one who has been paying attention to Rubio, except maybe for the growing number of Republicans who are convinced that he is the bright and hopeful future of their party.

Over the past several months, Rubio has been like Donald Trump’s shadow, talking in increasingly pessimistic terms about this country in order to win votes. Sure, he had a brief lapse in judgement when he launched his campaign on a hopeful promise of a “New American Century,” but Rubio quickly realized that a positive message has no play in a Republican primary campaign driven by fear and anger.debate-immigration-marco-rubio-donald-trump

He began saying things like, “America, your country is a great nation in decline,” and, “I don’t recognize my own country” — whatever the hell that means.

In the aftermath of the San Bernardino attack, while Trump got all the media coverage for his proposal to ban Muslims and shut down mosques, Rubio quietly took it a step further by proposing to shut down any place Muslims may gather.

Rubio’s initial candidacy had some optimistic hues, but in an effort to rise to the top he sold out and followed Trump’s lead, most recently on the issue of how we treat those in the United States who practice different faiths. This is particularly stunning since the Florida senator has dabbled in at least three different religions throughout his life.

What Obama said on Wednesday was a message that any person aspiring to be president should support, and Rubio’s response should give pause to those thinking of voting for him.

As Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe said, “In a political world that was borderline sane, [Rubio’s] comment would be disqualifying.”

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Who is still running for president?

Who is still running for president?

The Iowa caucuses are in the rear view mirror, and it’s full speed ahead to the New Hampshire primary set for Feb. 9.

In the meantime, it may be useful to revisit our list of presidential candidates. It started with about 500 candidates and has been slightly reduced over the past few months.

Who is still even in the race? Who has dropped out?

Republican candidates:

  • Donald Trump
  • Ted Cruz
  • Marco Rubio
  • Ben Carson
  • Jeb(!) Bush
  • John Kasich
  • Jim Gilmore
  • Carly Fiorina (dropped out Feb. 10, 2016)
  • Chris Christie (dropped out Feb. 10, 2016)
  • Rick Santorum (dropped out Feb. 3, 2016)
  • Rand Paul (dropped out Feb. 3, 2016)
  • Mike Huckabee (dropped out Feb. 1, 2016)
  • George Pataki (dropped out Dec. 29, 2015)
  • Lindsey Graham (dropped out Dec. 21, 2015)
  • Bobby Jindal (dropped out Nov. 17, 2015)
  • Scott Walker (dropped out Sept. 21, 2015)
  • Rick Perry (dropped out Sept. 11, 2015)

Democratic candidates

  • Hillary Clinton
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Martin O’Malley (dropped out Feb. 1, 2016)
  • Lawrence Lessig (dropped out Nov. 2, 2015)
  • Lincoln Chafee (dropped out Oct. 23, 2015)
  • Jim Webb (dropped out Oct. 20, 2015)

I’ll keep this space updated as information changes.

(Updated Feb. 10)

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It is New Hampshire, not Iowa, that picks Republican nominees

It is New Hampshire, not Iowa, that picks Republican nominees

The predictions I posted Monday were only partially right. My guess that high turnout would propel Donald Trump to victory was wrong. There was indeed high turnout (180,000+ turned out for the GOP caucus), but Ted Cruz – the guy so unlikeable that his 7-year-old daughter can’t even stand him – was still able to pull off a three-point win over the Donald.

Marco Rubio finished in third place and, as expected, tried to paint it as the biggest political event to happen in U.S. history; but nobody in the real world cares who finishes in second place, much less third.

On the Democratic side of the aisle, I correctly predicted that Hillary Clinton would win a close race in Iowa, but I was wrong to say that high turnout could lead to a win for Bernie Sanders. Turnout was robust – 170,000+ Democrats caucused – but Clinton still eeked out the victory.

A combination photo of U.S. Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted CruzI may or may not unpack the implications of Iowa’s Democratic results in another post, but I want to focus on the Republican race for now.

The most important question at the moment seems to be: What do these results mean for the rest of the GOP primary season? My short answer: Nothing. Iowa is historically terrible at picking the candidate that ultimately becomes the party nominee, particularly for Republicans.

Cruz’s victory, like those of former Iowa winners Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, will likely be short-lived, especially because the political media have the attention span of a toddler. Not to mention the fact that the spotlight has already turned to the (arguably) more important test of strength in the New Hampshire primary. 

It has been highly entertaining to see the post-Iowa thrashing that Donald Trump has taken – especially the fact that, as of this writing, Loser.com will direct you to Trump’s Wikipedia page – but his campaign is far from over.

Two New Hampshire polls out today give Trump huge leads, +18 (ARG poll) and +24 (UMASS Lowell/7News poll), over his nearest rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich, respectively.

The are a couple differences between polls conducted in the Granite State and those conducted in Iowa: 1. Caucuses, especially those in Iowa, are extremely hard to poll, which could at least partially explain the difference between polling and the actual caucus results; 2. Donald Trump’s lead is more sizable in New Hampshire and voters there could be more receptive to his message.

Yes, Iowa could be a sign that Trump’s support in the polls will not translate into actual success at the ballot box. Perhaps his ground game isn’t good enough to turn out voters and he will perform poorly moving forward, despite his polling strength. It’s also true that New Hampshire is known for being a state where voter preferences can swing rapidly from one candidate to another, making any candidate’s polling lead unsafe.

Still, don’t count Trump out of this race. Iowa was always going to be an uphill battle for the billionaire TV star, especially against a far-right candidate like Ted Cruz. Polling in other states has always shown a much more favorable picture for the Trump campaign. That, of course, starts in New Hampshire, where the Donald is still running strong.

As the old saying goes, “The people of Iowa pick corn; the people of New Hampshire pick presidents.”

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