By Fred Barnes
Feb 10, 2016 – 6:44 AM|
Donald Trump got everything he wanted in New Hampshire primary—and a whole lot more. He’s not only a stronger frontrunner in the Republican race than ever; he’s now in the driver’s seat on the road to the presidential nomination.
Trump is dominant. Here are a few examples:
- Every Republican candidate who finished first and second in Iowa and New Hampshire has won the presidential nomination. Having done so, Trump is now in a class with Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, and Mitt Romney. John McCain was a partial exception in 2000, having basically skipped Iowa and then won in New Hampshire. And it doesn’t matter where the first and second place finishes occurred. Reagan was second in Iowa in 1980, then won New Hampshire. Dole won Iowa in 1996 and settled for second to Pat Buchanan in New Hampshire.
- That New Hampshire failed to force all the marginal candidates out of the race is a boon for Trump. There’s still no single “establishment” candidate to oppose him. There are three, maybe four, and they’re fighting each other, not Trump. This is important. If Jeb Bush is still running when the Florida primary occurs on March 15, he’ll split the establishment vote with Marco Rubio. And Trump will win Florida. A similar situation will exist in Ohio if Kasich, the state’s governor, hangs around. Kasich and Rubio and maybe Bush will form a circular firing squad. Should Trump win both states, the race is over.
- Trump was zinged after Iowa because his vote was less than polls had forecast. But in New Hampshire, the opposite happened. The RealClear average of New Hampshire polls pegged Trump at 29.5 percent. He got better than 34 percent of the actual vote.
- There were suspicions Trump’s percentage would be significantly less than previous winners in New Hampshire. It was in some cases, mostly campaigns with fewer top tier candidates than this year. Trump slightly trailed Bush (38 percent) in 1988 and McCain in 2000 (37). But he beat Buchanan (27) in 1996. No embarrassment here.
- The Trump magic appears to be spreading to states with upcoming primaries. A political group polling in House races found recently that Trump’s lead in Alabama and North Carolina is roughly 2-to-1. That’s what Trump beat runner-up Kasich in New Hampshire.
Trump should be pleased Kasich was his closest rival in New Hampshire. Kasich is a weak challenger post-New Hampshire. He doesn’t have a national campaign. He’s running as a moderate, which won’t help him in the many primaries in Southern states over the next five weeks. Kasich is simply not a candidate with a viable future. For him, New Hampshire was both the beginning and the end.
No Republican who fared as poorly as Bush in Iowa and New Hampshire has ever won the nomination or even come close. He thinks he has a chance to break out in South Carolina on February 20, but don’t count on it. The only highlight of his campaign in New Hampshire was the appearance of his mother Barbara. He said New Hampshire “reset the race.” Maybe, but not for him.
To read expanded column, click here.