Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New Hampshire

What we are witnessing now in the Clinton campaign, in the media monopoly that backs her, and among her campaign surrogates is mounting panic. We saw it with Bill Clinton rambling on about Sanders' deceit and misogyny to a less-than-overflowing crowd at a New Hampshire junior high school. It was also on display when Gloria Steinem, feminist museum piece, dismissed as cock chasing the large advantage Bernie Sanders enjoys among young women.

It is pathetic. But it is not arbitrary or capricious. It is a centralized decision by Team Hillary to go negative in the run up to the primary today in an attempt to keep Sanders from a double-digit win.

Here is the CNN New Hampshire polling snapshot from yesterday:
On the eve of New Hampshire's presidential primaries, a new CNN Poll of Polls finds both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are holding on to substantial leads in their respective races, but each faces an opponent whose support is on the rise.
Sanders' 54% to 40% advantage over Hillary Clinton is down slightly from a 55% to 37% lead in the previous Poll of Polls. No public polling has found Clinton in the lead in New Hampshire since November.
    Trump tops the GOP field with 31%, well ahead of Marco Rubio's 15%. Rubio has picked up four points since the previous New Hampshire Poll of Polls, the biggest change in the averages in the last week. Ted Cruz follows with 13%, John Kasich at 11% and Jeb Bush at 10%. This pack of four -- Rubio, Cruz, Kasich and Bush -- has been jockeying for second place in the state for some time. The fifth candidate often included in the group, Chris Christie, has generally seen his support dwindle, and now stands well behind, dropping two points in this week's Poll of Polls to an average of 5%. Carly Fiorina ties Christie at 5% and Ben Carson rounds out the group with 3%.
    Politics is not rocket science. Certain things are known to work, one of them is negative campaigning. It doesn't drive support to your candidate; it drives down the support for your opponent, particularly if your opponent is buoyed by idealistic, young, first-time voters who still believe a better world is possible. Going on the attack, accusing your opponent (and, by association, his supporters) of dishonesty and base intentions, is the equivalent of a blow to the face. Most people can't take being hit in the face. So these voters stop participating. I saw it up close in the heady days post-Nader 2000. Once idealistic young Greens figured out that people despised them and that the foundation of politics was conflict and quid pro quo they melted away, back to their lives as spectators.

    The goal for Hillary is to keep Sanders' margin of victory in the single digits and then claim victory based on that result. The template here is what Slick Willie did in New Hampshire in 1992 against Paul Tsongas. Clinton came in second, losing by eight points; but he did better than expected and dubbed himself "The Comeback Kid," which the media monopoly dutifully gobbled up.

    Signs are that Hillary's negativism is paying off. But it looks like it's too late to keep Bernie from a double-digit win. Nate Cohn has a good New Hampshire rundown this morning in "New Hampshire Should Answer a Lot of Key Questions":
    The race may have tightened since the last debate. The five polls released after the debate last week showed Hillary Clinton faring seven points better, on average, than a prior batch of polls. On the other hand, those prior polls showed her behind by an average of 15 points, so there may be some “reversion to the mean” at play — it might be that the five previous polls were unrealistically good for Mr. Sanders, not that Mrs. Clinton actually gained. 
    It would be tough to dismiss a huge Mr. Sanders victory simply by saying he’s well known in Vermont. That’s certainly true compared with the rest of the country, but it seems like a stretch to argue that the average New Hampshire voter should be extremely predisposed toward Mr. Sanders. 
    Ninety percent of the New Hampshire Democratic electorate isn’t in the Burlington, Vt., media market, and the state’s most populous area — the southeastern section — is also the area farthest from Vermont. It was also Mrs. Clinton’s strongest area in 2008. Whether Mr. Sanders can beat here there, or at least do better than Barack Obama did in 2008, could offer real insight into the extent of Mr. Sanders’s appeal.
    Bernie wins New Hampshire. The only way the narrative gets difficult is if he beats Hillary by only a few points. But whether it is nine points or 13, I don't think it makes much difference going into Nevada and South Carolina. The race really begins in Nevada. We will know how much mojo Bernie has based on how he does there. Hillary beat Obama in Nevada in 2008.

    The same metric applies to Trump in New Hampshire. He has led there for a long time by a wide margin. If he wins in a squeaker, following his disappointing performance in the Potemkin village of American democracy, the Iowa caucuses, then his path to the Republican nomination becomes a trail of tears. But the New Hampshire narrative for the last week has been all about Marco Rubio. Chris Christie bitch-slapped him repeatedly Saturday night during the Republican debate hosted by ABC, and Rubio didn't look good handling it.

    I watched the debate; it's the first GOP performance I have seen. What struck me is how threadbare the whole affair appeared. It reminded me of employees who have worked together for decades trapped in the company break room sniping at each other; that, or hungover fraternity brothers arguing in the filth of the kitchen the morning after a big house party. Trump looked tired. Ben Carson came off as an imbecile. Chris Christie, a bully. Marco Rubio, a hot young stupid ambitious chick in "come-fuck-me" pumps. Jeb Bush, a manikin. Ted Cruz, the second coming of Tricky Dick Nixon. John Kasich, probably the best of the bunch, but no one you would ever want to vote for anyway. ABC framed the debate like a sporting event with shots of the candidates walking through halls like boxers with their entourages on the way to the ring or footballers coming out the tunnel. Marco Rubio even had earbuds draped over his Oxford, reminiscent of so many athletes you see dismounting the team bus with their Beats headphones.

    My preference for the #2 slot in the GOP New Hampshire primary, ahead of Kasich or Bush at #3, is Chris Christie. The guy is a toxic force, a lethal debater, extremely unappealing, a blowhard. Christie at #2 would shake things up.

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