New Hampshire is a very different place, and promises a very different sort of election, from Iowa and its caucus.
When Granite State voters go to the polls next Tuesday, they’ll cast the first primary election ballots of 2016. In New Hampshire, voters usually prefer more moderate, common-sense candidates. Independents have a big say.
And while Iowa was first, and therefore no one could really claim momentum from previous results, candidates in New Hampshire can. The Iowa showings usually make voters take a fresh look at someone who exceeded expectations – think Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders.
Here are some of the key questions to ponder as you watch the campaign drama unfold these next few days.
Q: How might the demographics and voter leanings in New Hampshire make a difference in the Republican race?
A: An estimated 1 in 5 Republican voters in New Hampshire are evangelical, compared with about 60 percent in Iowa. Iowa has more older voters – roughly one-fourth are over 65, compared with about 15 percent in New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s voters are somewhat more liberal. The wild card in New Hampshire is the “undeclared” voters, who can participate in either party’s primary; they make up about 40 percent of the electorate. That could favor candidates who don’t emphasize their religious calling, and perhaps helps those with appeal to younger voters.
Q: Who has the best ground game in New Hampshire, and does that matter?
A: The ground game – contacting voters personally with knocks on doors, mailers, Facebook messages and so forth – matters in a small state such as New Hampshire. It probably matters a bit less than in Iowa, where everyone’s supposed to be at the caucus at the same time. In New Hampshire, people have all day Tuesday to vote, so having campaigns drive you to the polls is less important.
Sanders is up by 18 percentage points among Democrats, Trump up 22 among Republicans in latest New Hampshire poll averages compiled by RealClearPolitics
Q: Who among the candidates is going to bypass New Hampshire and go straight to South Carolina to campaign?
A: Few, if any, will admit they’re doing that, and everyone will make stops in New Hampshire. But those relying on that evangelical vote are likely to spend more time among like-minded South Carolina Republicans. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania; and Ted Cruz will put more emphasis down South. After all, more than 60 percent of South Carolina’s Republican vote is regarded as evangelical.
Q: With the evangelical vote strong in South Carolina, might that be another big win for Cruz?
A: This one’s tricky. Cruz will go into South Carolina a strong favorite because of the demographics. But South Carolina has a history of foiling Cruz-like Republicans; Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Tuesday endorsed Rubio, his Senate colleague. Televangelist Pat Robertson in 1988, Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996, Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Santorum in 2012 all stumbled in the South’s first primary, effectively dooming their campaigns. And from 1980 to 2008, the South Carolina winner went on to be the GOP nominee.
Q: Is the Clinton-Sanders brawl likely to go on for months?
A: Sanders is widely expected to win New Hampshire, which shares a long border with his home state of Vermont. Clinton is seen as a big favorite in South Carolina, where she has strong support in the state’s sizable African-American community. That sets up a duel March 1, when Democrats vote in 11 states, many with large minority populations. On paper, advantage Clinton, but a Sanders surge could signal a lengthy fight.