New Hampshire primaries will test US presidential candidates

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Feb 10, 2016 11:39 IST
A voter casts her ballot at the Swanzey, NH polling station during the New Hampshire primary. (AP Photo)

If Donald Trump wins in the New Hampshire primaries on Tuesday, and by a wide margin as polls indicate he could, pundits believe the Republican party nomination is his for the asking.

And if Bernie Sanders does as well as predicted by polls — he is leading Hillary Clinton by a double-digit margin — he could turn the Democratic primaries into a protracted, costly contest.

But the state has a rocky relationship with polls. “They are more often wrong than right,” said Andrew Smith, a New Hampshire academic who has been polling the state since 2000.

Another pollster has called the state “a graveyard of polls”.

Watch | Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders win New Hampshire in crucial US vote

Trump has an unassailable lead over his nearest rival Marco Rubio, 31.2% to 14% in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, and is widely expected to win.

The point of interest being the margin, which, if thin, might be bad news for him, read with his under-performance in the Iowa caucuses last week, which he lost to Ted Cruz.

The contest on the Republican side is really for the Number 2 slot, which is currently occupied by Rubio in polls, with Governor John Kasich a close third, at 13.5%.

Though Cruz is placed fourth, he is not said to be in that race — which has the governors Kasich, Jeb Bush (formerly) and Chris Christie, who are looking better than ever before.

Rubio came to New Hampshire riding a surge in numbers caused by a strong finish in Iowa — he was a close third. But he has since come under withering attack from the governors.

A spat with Christie in the last presidential debate, for instance, is believed to have damaged his chances significantly, stopping his surge at the least, if not reversing it.

Kasich has been rising. But Smith said the Ohio governor has made the tactical mistake of presenting himself as a moderate conservative to court independents. That may not work.

On the Democratic side, Sanders is so far ahead of Clinton — 54.5% to 41.2% — that the former secretary of state will consider a single-digit defeat margin a good outcome.

Sanders began rising around September-October, and never let Clinton catch up. The win in Iowa, by the thinnest of margins, hasn’t helped her narrow the gap here at all.

“Democratic primary voters have never historically supported candidates backed by the party,” said Smith, who has co-authored “The First Primary: New Hampshire’s Outsize Role in Presidential Politics”.

They like left-leaning liberals, and Sanders is just that. His socialism is less of an issue specially, Smith added, with the new generation in the party that grew up post-cold war.

Sanders has surprised experts and pundits beating Clinton even among younger women, who should otherwise have been on her side. She has tried to win them over, but unsuccessfully so far.

also read

US commends India for help in unearthing call centre scam
Show comments