Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Some Final Thoughts from "the Ground"

Heading home from Portsmouth after this whirlwind weekend trip of 6 candidate events across the state.  Should give me time to get to Moncton in time to watch the results roll in tonight.  A few quick impressions for now, with more to follow later in the week:

1. The two big local issues in New Hampshire (on both sides) seem to be heroin abuse and college tuition.  Both come up regularly in questions and get prominent mentions in the stump speeches.  Seems shocking to me that the issue of heroin abuse is so rampant in New Hampshire, but it is so bad it is being described as a pandemic and apocalypse

2. The college tuition issue has helped Bernie - his solution of free tuition is simpler than Hillary's incremental and more nuanced plan.  He has a much clearer and direct message across the board, and it is surprising to me that so many Democrats in this primary just do not seem to care about whether it is realistic or achievable.  I wonder how much of that comes down to being the incumbent party in the White House, and how much of it is an anti-Hillary vote. 

3. Or is it a broader anti-establishment vote?  Hillary has the current Governor and Democratic Senator on her side, but those endorsements do not seem to be helping much.  Maybe they will in the get-out-the-vote efforts.  Certainly the Wall Street line of attack is killing her, and you can see the sense of entitlement seeping out occasionally among her supporters - for example, the comments from Steinem and Albright are just brutal and no doubt harmful to her campaign.

4. I have to say I was impressed by her though.  I was firmly for Obama in 2008, but Clinton would get my support in 2016.  No candidate is perfect (which you hear often enough in NH as the reason why the fickle voters here keep changing their mind) and she certainly is not.  But she's an incredibly accomplished individual and easily the better chance to keep the Republicans from winning the White House.  The fact that she is referred to simply as "evil" by supporters at Trump and Cruz rallies, whereas Bernie is just dismissed as an unthreatening crazy old socialist, is a further mark in her favour.  

5. As to the Republican side: Cruz is pure tea party - lots of biblical and constitutional quotations interspersed with constant references to the idol of Reagan, etc.  He is less threatening only in that we have seen these kinds of candidates before, and very hard to see how he could win a general election.  Rubio, on the other hand, is engaging and immediately personable.  His stump speech is peppered with jokes that are modern and funny.  Where Cruz name-drops Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer, Rubio riffs about disco music and Ace Ventura.  It didn't seem like Rubio had much of a local New Hampshire team though, and it would not surprise me if he drops due to that debate performance.  His message is all electability.  Bush was surprisingly good in the town hall setting.  He has a lot of the establishment party support and you can easily see why.  He also has a ton of money remaining, with tons of lawn signs and full glossy brochures on hand.  He is running as the grown-up in the race, and you can sense the underlying animosity at Rubio for jumping the queue before he has actually done any real governing.  There was a lot of buzz last night that polls were shifting his way and Jeb! was the first Republican I saw to really go directly after Trump, a central part of his stump speech now.  How ironic it would be, in this year of anti-establishment fervor, if the race ended up being a Bush versus a Clinton.   

6. As for Trump, I want to reflect a bit more on that rally before putting my thoughts to keyboard.  But his celebrity-fueled candidacy really is fundamentally different than all the others, and there is an even more palpable sense of that in attendance.  The incivility, the fascistic appeal of a leader who will restore nationalist pride and solve problems by the sheer force of personality is unnerving.  The speaker that introduced Trump was Al Baldasaro, who quoted the Immigration Act as providing the authority to ban groups from entering the United States that are intent on overthrowing the government, and so justifies Trump's plan to ban all Muslims.  Which was said to great cheers, of course.  As were Trump's calls to reinstitute waterboarding and "far worse".  I have stopped thinking of Trump as a joke, and will be relieved when he eventually loses (hopefully!). 

7. Predictions?  Clinton will be happy to keep the deficit under 20%, and would be thrilled if it were in single digits.  I will say Sanders +13%.  Nevada and South Carolina become key for her to stop his momentum.  The remaining states are far less white and liberal, so barring any surprises she is still the overwhelming favourite for the nomination.  On the Republican side, Trump to win by about 10%and a virtual four-way tie for 2nd (I will go for a Kasich-Cruz-Bush-Rubio order of finish) that leaves all 5 candidates in the race until at least Super Tuesday.  And even more interesting times ahead.        


Post a Comment

<< Home