Before we all move on from New Hampshire I just want to say a few words about the state of the presidential race right now. I’ll stick with the GOP today, and save my rant on Hillary Clinton and her lousy sinking ship of a campaign for later on.
What happened yesterday for Donald Trump was absolutely the best case scenario for his campaign going forward. You could not have scripted it any better. Not only did he win by a massive margin in the “Live Free or Die” state, but looking at the results, the entire effort to stop him is a complete shambles.
There is no consensus on an “establishment” challenger at all. None. Marco Rubio, who was the best hope as a consensus going into Tuesday, crashed into fifth place on the heels of his disastrous ABC performance. While John Kasich did finish in second place behind Trump, based on what I’ve read in the National Review and other places he’s got very little strength in these upcoming states. His campaign organization is spread way too thin and money is in short supply; he basically bet the house on New Hampshire. And yes, it worked this time, but how long Kasich can last before the money runs out, I don’t know.
As for Jeb Bush, it was another lousy night, but because there is still no breakout candidate to oppose Trump and because Rubio did so poorly, Jeb is encouraged enough to stay in this race. He really ought to throw in the towel.
So even though we lost two candidates today – both Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie have suspended their campaigns — we really didn’t get the shakeout on the Republican side that was needed for a real stop-Trump coalition to emerge. Everyone else is still running, there is no real consensus on any one of them in particular, and not a lot of extra votes are freed up. And the candidate who finished second – Kasich – is the one who is least able to capitalize on it. In short, this situation is a mess.
Going forward, I agree with the pundits who say the candidate in the best position to rival Trump is Sen. Ted Cruz, since he finished third in New Hampshire which wasn’t exactly the best state for him anyway. His true-conservative message should appeal to more voters in the Southern states.
But Cruz, the Tea Party favorite, has lots of baggage. He’s burned so many bridges and ticked off so many people, and so much of the GOP establishment hates his guts. His confrontational stand-on-principle style of politics grates on people, especially those in his own party. If Cruz does emerge as number two to Trump, I really wonder if he will be able to consolidate enough support from supporters of the others who drop out.
In short, I kind of agree with Fred Barnes and his take in the Weekly Standard about the results. Trump trumped the field, big time, in New Hampshire. The results there have made the chore of trying to prevent him from winning the GOP nomination very difficult indeed.