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How the New Hampshire primary reshuffled the 2016 race

February 10, 2016 at 6:40 PM EDT
With the nation’s first primary on the books, what’s next for the 2016 race? Reid Wilson of Morning Consult and Susan Page of USA Today join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss Donald Trump’s landslide win in New Hampshire and whether the other GOP can build momentum in South Carolina, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ potential to capitalize on his victory and distress over a defeat within the Clinton camp.

HARI SREENIVASAN: We look ahead now to Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, and the next phase of the campaign for both parties coming out of New Hampshire.

Joining us are Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, and Reid Wilson, chief political correspondent for the politics and polling Web site Morning Consult.

All right, let’s start with the Republicans first. How meaningful was Trump’s win?

SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: Pretty meaningful.

That was — he not only won among traditional Republican voters in New Hampshire. He won among nontraditional Republican voters, among independents who voted in the Republican primary, among people who were voting in a Republican primary for the first time. So he is clearly drawing new people into the Republican coalition.

And that raises a possibility that he will change what it means to be a Republican.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about Kasich coming in second?

REID WILSON, Morning Consult: Kasich essentially saved off the end of his campaign. The problem for him going forward, though, is that he’s likely to be living essentially hand to mouth for the rest of the campaign.

He spent most of his war chest in New Hampshire because it was either do or die there. Now, as he raises money in the wake of a surprisingly good showing, the first time I think we can ever say 16 percent is a surprisingly good showing, he will be essentially spending every dollar he possibly can on television ads to introduce himself to voters in South Carolina, and then if he makes it out of there alive, to voters in Nevada and then on to the Super Tuesday states.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Rubio even admitted yesterday kind of his — or day before — in his concession speech, saying, this is my fault, this is my debate performance, it won’t happen again.

Was it that singular event that just…

SUSAN PAGE: I think we know from the exit polls of voters that the debate loomed very large in the last-minute decisions made by a lot of Republican voters. Clearly, it really hurt Rubio. We thought he was on a path to be second or, at worst, third.

That didn’t happen. So, I think that the next debate, he’s going to have a lot to prove. It’s not that he’s damaged beyond the possibility of recovery, but he’s definitely damaged. He needs to prove that he can be more self-assured, be more self-confident and especially be more spontaneous in the next debate.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, speaking of self-assured, confident, spontaneous, Jeb Bush.

REID WILSON: Jeb Bush is — this result in New Hampshire was just about the worst thing that could have happened for sort of the business lane Republicans who are all trying to find one candidate to coalesce around.

It looked like Rubio coming out of Iowa. Rubio finishes fifth in New Hampshire, Jeb Bush only barely ahead of him. And now they have got a new contender for the crown in John Kasich, who will at least stick around and try to win those voters going forward. So, this means a divided business lane of the Republican Party.

Ted Cruz has his avenue, especially among evangelical voters, who play a huge role in South Carolina. And Donald Trump has his fans, as Susan says, largely new folks coming into the process. It’s hard to see how the business end coalesces before we get to the really big Super Tuesday states on March 1.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Speaking of the business end, how much does the war chest matter at this point? If you’re Jeb Bush, you have got a fair amount of support. Perhaps if you’re Ted Cruz, you have picked up some.

SUSAN PAGE: So, tell me how much good has that done Jeb Bush so far. Not much. He spent more than anybody else on ads, on organization.

Now, of course, we do enter a phase of the campaign where it matters a little more in these big states. You do less retail campaigning. TV ads can mean more. But so far this has not rescued Jeb Bush. This has been a campaign of momentum, enthusiasm, and anger, not one where money talks.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And Ted Cruz seemed to spend the least amount of money and had a pretty respectable showing in New Hampshire, not where his demographic, his base is.

REID WILSON: He spent about $18 per vote, which is a bargain in this day and age, when Jeb Bush was spending somewhere around $1,200 per vote, including the super PAC.

Cruz’s opportunities lie ahead, no only in South Carolina, where, as I say, evangelical voters play a huge role, but also in those March 1 Super Tuesday primaries. A lot of Southern state are voting that day, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Cruz’s home state, Oklahoma, all places where conservatives play a huge role and especially evangelical conservatives.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. Today, we heard basically Fiorina and Christie deciding to leave. Surprised?

SUSAN PAGE: No, not a surprise.

And, in fact, if they hadn’t left, they were already irrelevant I think to the conversation going forward. That is the situation that Ben Carson now finds himself in. He may or may not drop out of this race. It doesn’t really matter. He’s been discounted. We’re down to about five candidates who matter. And we will see what happens going forward as we head into these bigger states at a faster pace.

HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s still a crowded field. It’s not a two-person or three-person field.


And as we’re talking about the early states, Susan brings up a very important point here about the pacing of all this. The early states are less about collecting the delegates you need to win the nomination once you get to Cleveland for the Republicans or Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, for the Democrats.

The early states are about building momentum into those later voting states where voters are just now starting to tune in, just starting to pay attention. And those voters who haven’t been paying attention before have seen now Bernie Sanders win big in New Hampshire and Donald Trump win big and Ted Cruz’s surprise in Iowa. Those are the names that are getting the most attention nationally.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s talk a little bit about the Democrats.

Bernie Sanders’ win, does it translate into a win in Nevada or South Carolina?

SUSAN PAGE: We will find out. It was a big win. This was stunning for a candidate who has not actually been a Democrat before to win the Democratic primary in New Hampshire over the person we thought was once the likely the front-runner, the likely nominee by such a huge margin. That’s really historic.

He also has money. It’s not that he starts out with a big base of support in a state like South Carolina, but he’s raising a ton of dough. And that means that he may not have the fate that some New Hampshire winners have had, which is where they can’t exploit and capitalize on that victory.

He’s in a position where his finances mean that this race on the Democratic side, I think, is guaranteed to go into the spring.

HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the weaknesses point to is, how does he translate his support in New Hampshire and Iowa into a far more racially diverse population in the rest of the country?

REID WILSON: It’s going to be a huge challenge for him, and it’s an opportunity for Hillary Clinton, who has a far deeper bench base and history with African-American voters who dominate in South Carolina, with Hispanic voters who dominate in Nevada.

Sanders, however, is getting the opportunity to introduce himself. In just the — what was it, about 20 hours after the polls closed in New Hampshire, his campaign said they had raised something like $5 million, which is — that’s a good month for some candidates.

Sanders is going to have the resources necessary to keep his message on the air in South Carolina, which hasn’t seen a lot of advertising spending yet, in Nevada and beyond.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And, finally, what’s the Clinton camp thinking today?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, I think they are distressed. I think they are distressed by her showing.

They had hoped maybe they would keep it to single digits. That didn’t happen in New Hampshire. Also, you look at what voters told us in the exit polls. They don’t find her honest. They don’t find her trustworthy. She has a huge deficit when it comes to younger voters, voters under 30.

These are issues that she’s going to have to address in the next couple of weeks if she’s going to prevail.

REID WILSON: The exit polls were a disaster for the Clinton campaign.

Among voters who said they wanted an honest and trustworthy candidate, Sanders won more than 90 percent of the vote. Even among voters who said that Clinton said shared their views, 40 percent of those voters voted for Bernie Sanders.

It’s really hard to see, at this moment, any sort of silver lining for the Clinton campaign coming out of New Hampshire, a state that effectively launched Bill Clinton into the White House.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Reid Wilson from Morning Consult, Susan Page from USA Today, thanks so much.

SUSAN PAGE: Thank you.

REID WILSON: Thank you.