Strategy now? Trump needs to finish off Cruz; Cruz needs to finish off Trump; Rubio needs to wiggle through the Trump v. Cruz fight and help himself to second place.
Ted Cruz’s strategy was always to be nice to Trump in order to get Trump voters once Trump collapsed. Rubio has a 3-2-1 strategy of third place in Iowa, second place in New Hampshire, first place in South Carolina. Trump’s strategy has been to make himself the sole candidate of change with the toughest personality and policies.
We have the first post Iowa poll from New Hampshire. All that matters now is New Hampshire. Before Iowa we wrote only Iowa mattered. Now only New Hampshire matters. Has Iowa shaken New Hampshire poll numbers? We would not have been surprised if Trump lost ten points and Cruz/Rubio gained five points apiece. Did that happen? No:
Donald Trump is still in first place, but he’s frozen at 38%. Ted Cruz is second with 14%. Marcio Rubio is third with 12%. Jeb Bush has 9% and John Kasich has 7%.
Rounding out the Republicans: Chris Christie with 6%; Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina with 3% each and Rand Paul with 2%. 6% of voters still remain undecided. [snip]
Sanders gets 61% in our poll and Clinton gets 32%. Only 5% of voters remain undecided.
Iowa did perform its role: Santorum is out. Rand Paul is out. Huckabee is out. (O’Malley on the Dem side is out too.) As to the NH poll results, Trump neither gained nor lost; Cruz rose 2; Rubio rose 4; Kasich down 2; Bush unchanged; Christie/Carson down 1 each; Fiorina up one.
Who is best positioned in regards to their strategy goal? Obviously, Trump. If Trump wins NH he has a great chance of victory in the must win state for everybody: South Carolina. Trump has been well ahead in South Carolina and a victory in New Hampshire should guarantee a double digit victory for Trump. Trump sharply made his first post Iowa speech a showcase for the Scott Brown endorsement. And if you’re wondering why Trump is tackling Cruz so strongly on the Cruz Iowa stunts – it’s because Trump wants the Ben Carson supporters when Ben Carson drops out.
Rubio? Rubio will try to wiggle himself up the pole while Trump and Cruz squabble. But Trump can afford to ignore Rubio right now as long as Trump wins and Cruz is seen as a one state wonder. Rubio wants to come in second in NH in order to get momentum for South Carolina. But a Trump double digit victory (or a 20 point victory) will be the momentum getter and Rubio will not get his much needed momentum. If Rubio loses South Carolina, his 3-2-1 strategy is in tatters and then Rubio faces destruction in his home state. Trump pre-Iowa led Florida in double digits too Rubio today got the kiss of death endorsement from Sweaters Santorum, our least favorite candidate this year as in every year. On the plus side Rubio is now the establishment pick and his money woes should be over. The only remaining question mark for Rubio is whether Jeb Bush decides to attack Rubio or not. Bush appears to be holding steady in NH so Rubio cannot be happy.
As to Cruz, he’s in a death match against Trump in a state very friendly to Trump. Simply put, Cruz is in the wrong battlefield. Cruz should move on to South Carolina and leave Trump to beat up on Rubio in NH. But Cruz probably realizes Trump would only use a Cruz departure to continue to beat up on Cruz, not be distracted by Rubio. That’s why Cruz tries a #Trumpertantrump crusade – it’s all he’s got.
Once Trump dispatches Cruz in New Hampshire, he will turn his attention to Marco Rubio and illegal immigration amnesty. It won’t be pretty for Rubio, the one Chris Christie has dubbed the “bubble boy”.
As to Hillary v. Sanders? Sanders will decisively win in New Hampshire. The problem for Hillary is not Bernie Sanders. Hillary’s problem is a “when” problem:
Hillary however faces a very difficult “when” problem now. The Dims do not have winner take all. So if Hillary wins 60% of the vote in the southern primaries and less in the mountain states where Sanders should do better, when does Hillary win?
Without winner take all primary victories to settle the nomination quickly, Hillary has a much longer “when” horizon than Trump, if he is the eventual nominee.
After yesterday, Hillary has a big “when” problem because although Bernie did not get his “must win” in Iowa the Sanders’ troops do not feel defeated… yet. Hillary will have to bring down the margin in New Hampshire to single digits and deprive Sanders of a ten point or more victory which will fuel his troops with desire for more battle.
Tonight, Hillary and Sanders will engage in a CNN gab-a-thon without the waste of time Baltimore O’Malley. On Saturday the Republicans will have a debate in the style of a medieval tournament with blood splashing all over the place. New Hampshire voters will watch, and we will all have to wait for New Hampshire to decide.