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-head 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.
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.”
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