A Republican presidential race that has lurched to and fro lurched yet again Tuesday night in New Hampshire, as the slow sorting continued behind prototypical outsider and resurrected Donald Trump.
On the Democratic side, fellow non-establishmentarian Bernie Sanders validated polls that showed him comfortably ahead of Hillary Clinton. Coupled with their virtual tie in Iowa, that tees up Nevada and South Carolina, with Clinton needing to hold serve against an emboldened Sanders in states considered more favorable to her message.
Trump, off an unexpected loss in Iowa’s GOP caucus, regained some of his swagger by effectively lapping the field in New Hampshire. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz contended with a less favorable demographic but managed to lodge himself in the pack far behind Trump.
Trump showed strength among independents and voters who rated the economy and terrorism as top issues. New Hampshire might not have been a must-win for the self-funded Trump, but a second defeat would have raised serious questions.
Below Trump, the “establishment lane” contenders — Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie — battled for plausibility, perhaps outright survival.
Rubio’s bump from a solid third in Iowa dissipated before the first New Hampshire vote was cast after a struggling debate effort. Kasich surged into second, and Bush nosed ahead, as well. The irony was that Christie’s debate elbows did much to bring Rubio down, but the New Jersey governor benefited least.
All campaigns aren’t created equal, of course, and differences in funding and organization will become more apparent going forward.
Kasich, for instance, focused almost all of his energies on New Hampshire. But he appears to lack the ground game for South Carolina and Nevada, not to mention the delegate-rich “SEC primary” states March 1, with Texas the big prize.
Clinton’s campaign, once considered unbeatable in the Democratic race, still may be. She’s leading Sanders in polling among pivotal African-American and Hispanic voters who will be more plentiful now that the campaigns have passed Iowa and New Hampshire.
The GOP side, meanwhile, is sorting itself out, but taking its time to get there.
— The Dallas Morning News,