February 6, 2016
Three days to go in New Hampshire. As of the time of this writing, Bernie leads Hillary by 17.6% in the Real Clear Politics average. Donald Trump leads Marco Rubio by 16.0%. Very similar. Yet, FiveThirtyEight figures Bernie is a 99% certainty to win on Tuesday, while The Donald is only a 63% favorite.
Trump has led in every post-Iowa poll. So has Bernie. Both lead going back multiple weeks. However, while Hillary pulled even at one point, and led in several polls in the fall, Trump has remained the undisputed polling champion of the Granite State since July.
If there’s a major Iowa-related problem for Trump, it’s not showing in the polling. He’s holding mostly steady. Bernie is holding up overall, but the UMass Lowell/7News tracking poll had him up 31 on the eve of Iowa. Today the gap is 15.
So why are Bernie’s odds better?
A few good reasons:
He only has one opponent and she has something to lose
If you don’t want to support Hillary, only two choices. Vote for Bernie, or choose someone in the GOP primary (if you’re an Independent and can cross over). Trump voters can abandon him for Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, etc. Plus, the Independents among them can bolt to the Democratic primary.
When Bernie debated Hillary, sparks flew. Again, he was only attacked from one side, with one frame of reasoning. Each salvo was designed to push voters towards the more seasoned Clinton. Though she went all out, in ads and in person, she needs to be mindful of going so far that Berners won’t turn out in November.
Some of Trump’s opponents have nothing to lose. Jeb Bush is facing possible extinction. He can’t worry yet about Trump voters supporting him in November. Jeb will attack Trump’s suitability to hold the presidency and his ability to win election.
While he (and others) take that approach, Ted Cruz hits him on his inconsistent conservatism. Bernie doesn’t have to defend his ability to get elected and govern while also trying to convince voters he’s the progressive in the race.
Rubio has definite momentum. Clinton does not. Democrats are more decided.
Marcomentum is a mathematical threat to Trump. He’s almost doubled his New Hampshire support in the past 10 days. Right now, even the most Rubio-favorable poll from the Boston Globe/Suffolk, has Trump up 29/19. But most polls show a significant percentage of voters with Rubio as their second choice.
If the current trajectory holds, this will be very close by election day, more from Marco advancing, than Trump declining. There’s no guarantee of this. Rubio’s supporters aren’t all locked in. He could just as easily stall out and have Kasich or Cruz surpass him.
But, there is a path for Trump to have a problem. If Rubio closes as well in the Granite State as he did with the Hawkeyes, it’s an issue. The Donald actually lost voters directly to Rubio in Iowa, along with establishment-friendly voters consolidating around Marco.
In Iowa, there were only so many mainstream GOP votes to capture. In New Hampshire, the Kasich/Christie/Jeb trio is holding 25-30% of current support. While Trump voters are more locked in than many of his competitors, they are less certain than Sanders voters.
All surveys are indicating fewer leaning Democrats. Two-thirds say they are very decided, a sixth leaning, and another sixth really in play. A good half of Republicans are leaning or uncommited. Trump has to worry about keeping his own and making sure Rubio doesn’t pick up too many moving voters.
Trump didn’t close well in Iowa
Bernie got a higher percentage than the final RCP average. Trump got a lower percentage. Even if Bernie’s edge was grabbing O’Malley supporters after their guy was ruled non-viable, he still held his own people. Trump fell short.
Yesterday, The Donald wound up cancelling his local events due to snow, while he jetted off to South Carolina. All of his main competitors were on the ground in New Hampshire. This probably bothers fewer voters than the press thinks, but if Rubio is moving up, and Trump drops a little support from the other side….
Donald Trump is still the clear favorite to win New Hampshire. Until Rubio is within 4 or 5 points in a single poll, it’s too early to plan on his defeat. Even at that, you’d still like his odds. Still, for someone who has led the last 60+ polls in the state, he’s vulnerable.
Neither Bernie nor Hillary are spending Saturday night in New Hampshire. She is on her way to a Sunday event in Flint, Michigan to discuss the water crisis. Sanders is looking forward to an SNL appearance with Larry David. This indicates both campaigns agree with the FiveThirtyEight numbers.
Barring any miracles, the Democratic contest is about final margin, the GOP winner still to be completely determined.