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What candidates need to do going into the New Hampshire primaries

February 2, 2016 at 6:40 PM EDT
After coming out of a virtual tie in Iowa, which Democratic presidential candidate has the advantage going into New Hampshire? Can Ted Cruz keep up his Iowa momentum, or will Donald Trump make a better showing in the next contest? With primary season underway, Judy Woodruff examines the race with Reid Wilson of Morning Consult and Susan Page of USA Today.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The Iowa caucuses are now part of history, and the eyes of the political world turn to the Granite State.

Susan Page is Washington bureau chief for USA Today, and she joins us from Manchester, New Hampshire. And Reid Wilson is chief political correspondent for the politics and polling Web site Morning Consult.

And we welcome you both to the program.

So, let’s talk about how this race changes now that Iowa’s behind us, Democrats first.

And, Susan, let me start with you.

Who — does anybody have an advantage coming out of Iowa, because you have got this virtual tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders?

SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: Yes, you know, you do have a virtual tie, but at her very first event in New Hampshire this morning, Hillary Clinton described herself as a winner, said she had won there and lost there, and it was better to win.

So, you may just win by one point, but in the Clinton campaign’s view, a win is a win is a win. And I suppose that’s helpful. On the other hand, also a boost for Sanders supporters. I mean, as Senator Sanders pointed out, a couple weeks ago, you could not have predicted that he would basically have gone head to head with Hillary Clinton and tied her in Iowa.

So I think both campaigns came out of Iowa with some bragging rights.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Would you see that the same way, Reid?

REID WILSON, Morning Consult: I do. I think both campaigns had a relatively good night. But the results we saw forecast some challenges in the future.

Bernie Sanders is going to have to branch out and expand his base, especially among more traditional Democrats. Hillary Clinton is going to have to find a way to tap into some of the youthful excitement that Sanders is generating.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk, Reid, about Bernie Sanders. And you’re saying he’s got to branch out, but right now he has got a lead in New Hampshire. So, how does that translate there and then on into South Carolina?

REID WILSON: Neighbors of New Hampshire, whether they’re from Massachusetts or Vermont, have traditionally done very well in New Hampshire primaries.

But, beyond that, we have essentially dealt with the two states in the early nominating contests that are the whitest, that are the most likely to vote for Sanders. And then down the road, we get into populations in South Carolina and Nevada, heavily Hispanic, heavily African-American, both of whom are groups among whom Hillary Clinton does exceedingly well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan, how do you see the challenges that Bernie Sanders now confronts?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, Bernie Sanders would like to win big in New Hampshire next week. There’s nothing like a victory to put wind in your sails.

But I totally agree with Reid. He then faces a big problem when he goes to Nevada, with its big Hispanic population, South Carolina, with its big African-American population, groups with whom the Clintons have a long history and a lot of support.

The Clinton campaign thinks, even if they lose in New Hampshire, which is the most likely scenario, she can go to South Carolina and then into the Southern states on Super Tuesday and have a kind of firewall, where she’s guaranteed to beat Bernie Sanders, because he has not yet managed no get significant support among African-Americans.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Susan, how do you see Hillary Clinton’s principal challenge right now?

SUSAN PAGE: Well, here’s the questions that I think some Democrats have about Hillary Clinton: Was this just kind of a little glitch, that a combination of circumstances that made Iowa so close, or is there something flawed about her as a candidate that is going to create problems down the road in other states where she ought to do well?

And I don’t think we can know that for sure until she faces those contests in other states. It may just be that first two states are really hard for Hillary Clinton. It may be that they’re seeing signs that she’s not a great candidate. And how do they fix that when they’re down to two candidates and the other one is a candidate who is basically not as acceptable to the Democratic establishment?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn to the Republicans.

Reid Wilson, Ted Cruz clearly got a lift coming out of Iowa. Where does that take him? What does that mean for him?

REID WILSON: That puts him on a relatively sound path to the nomination. It is a better path than, I think, a lot of other candidates have. Ted Cruz really needed to win Iowa. If he hadn’t won, his campaign likely would have collapsed, because he’s going to face some serious challenges in New Hampshire, where voters are a lot more centrist.

And then moving forward, assuming that New Hampshire condenses the rest of the Republican field, it will essentially be a three-way race between whatever establishment candidate comes out of New Hampshire, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz. He’s going to need as much momentum as he can possibly get. And he got a big lift by beating expectations on Monday.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

Susan, how do you see the job that Ted Cruz has now, and who, what — and what is his big competition now?

SUSAN PAGE: You know what’s amazing is, we’re talking about Ted Cruz, and we didn’t first talk about Donald Trump. I don’t think that’s happened in the past six months when we have talked about the Republican field.

And that tells you what a big victory that was for Ted Cruz last night. Really, he was — he had been criticized by the popular Republican governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad. He had come out against ethanol subsidies. That’s like sacred ground when it comes to Iowa. And he still managed to win there, big victory.

But he still faces Donald Trump, and we don’t know yet whether Donald Trump can take a punch. Donald Trump has had this phenomenal rise since he announced his candidacy, rising in the polls, becoming more and more acceptable to more and more Republicans. The question was, could he deliver when people actually had to go and vote? And he didn’t do that last night.

Will he pick himself up and go on in states like New Hampshire to come back? That, we don’t know yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see what Donald Trump needs to do now, Reid?

REID WILSON: The aura of inevitability is no longer with Donald Trump. His whole brand is about winning and success.

And, as Susan mentioned, the first time he had an opportunity to actually convert, he didn’t. So, Trump really needs some kind of rebound, whether it’s in New Hampshire or South Carolina, but he needs to get back on the horse, and quickly. Otherwise, his — this sort of notion that he is the inevitable candidate, if that’s not sustainable, then he’s not going to go anywhere.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, quickly, Susan, to Marco Rubio, who came in a really strong third, but there are a lot of — and there are a lot of other candidates who would love to trade places with his being third.

SUSAN PAGE: Yes, that’s right.

That was a strong finish, and he actually handled it pretty masterfully when you think about a third-place finish as being a victory, but I think it was for Marco Rubio, because, going into New Hampshire, it puts him a bit above those three governors. All of the — all four of those candidates are trying to get the mantle of the mainstream Republican, the alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Iowa gave Marco Rubio a big boost to that status.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Reid, we see, picking up on what Susan just said, these other Republican, so-called establishment Republicans are already going after him today. Chris Christie said he’s like the boy in the plastic bubble?

REID WILSON: Yes, and we have seen a lot of different candidates go after Marco Rubio, whether it’s Jeb Bush or John Kasich or today Chris Christie.

And that’s because of this sort of traffic jam that we’re seeing in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is the state where the establishment Republicans tend to dominate Republican politics and the Republican primaries. But you have got about five candidates who have a legitimate shot and are really trying to compete in New Hampshire.

That sort of gives me the sense that someone like a Donald Trump or maybe even a Ted Cruz could sneak out a win, because their slice of the Republican pie isn’t as divided as that establishment lane.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we have a little bit of clarification, but there is a whole long way to go.

Reid Wilson, Susan Page, great to see both of you. Thank you.

REID WILSON: Thanks a lot.

SUSAN PAGE: Thank you.

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