Tuesday, February 11th – the day of reckoning is here! I’m writing this about 4 pm, with the polls still open. Maybe I’ll drop in to the nearest one (there is a convenient list online) and ask the workers about turnout. Something we top=notch political reporters do, all the time – because everybody knows turnout is crucial.
I suppose it is, if one candidate is especially popular among people who are, relatively speaking, less likely to vote. That means Bernie, champion of the young and the disaffected. I think. Later, in other states, it might mean Joe Biden, popular among black voters. I don’t think any of the others has a special cadre of support that would be distinctively affected by turnout. Women, for example, who I think vote at about the same rate as men. Or liberal voters… oh sorry, they’re all liberals.
As long as I’m here, I should write down my guess like everybody else, for the record. I assume no one among my (millions of) readers reads this blog for its acute political analysis or breathtaking command of voter trends. So I’ve got nothing to lose. But maybe I’ll hit it just right and folks will be amazed! (Did you know that Yankees manager Aaron Boone actually predicted the score of this year’s Super Bowl, exactly? Wow! But not really wow – thousands of prominent people of all stripes ventured predictions; probability says that one, or a few, are likely to nail it.)
So here goes. New Hampshire is next door to Vermont, and folks have known Bernie Sanders for a long time. And he ran four years ago and won here, got 60% of the vote. Massachusetts is next door too, but I don’t sense New Hampshirites adopting Elizabeth Warren as an almost native daughter the same way.
Amy Klobuchar had a very good debate showing last week (people said). And Pete Buttigieg is a good campaigner and personally appealing. Joe Biden, for all I loved him in his town hall appearance, did not have a huge cheering section at the Shaheen Dinner. Andrew Yang is a blast, so much fun, but is going to attract only those who are impractical enough to vote for the guy they actually like best even if he can’t win. In New Hampshire, that is pretty many people though. Tom Steyer is sound and fury signifying nothing. Tulsi Gabbard and Deval Patrick seem to be treading water without much support, and Michael Bennet is under water.
Distilling all that wisdom: Let’s say Bernie wins at 26%, with Pete a solid second, 22%, then Klobuchar, Warren and Biden battling for third; Klobuchar has the momentum and takes third with 15%, Warren 13% and Biden 12%. By my math that leaves 12% to divide among five others. (Votes for Bloomberg, not campaigning here, will be negligible.) Say that Yang ‘wins’ the also-rans, with 4%. Gabbard, Patrick, maybe 3% each, and Bennet and Steyer around 1%. each.
There you have it! What prize do I get? More important, what prize does the winner, or top finishers, get in real terms? Not much, I’d say. Unless there is some marked departure from the rough expectations, New Hampshire likely has little effect on what follows; South Carolina and Nevada are so different from this state that success here does not spell success there. And Super Tuesday looms, when Bloomberg might possibly be a factor (though I doubt his national appeal).
But that is not to say this place is unimportant. For one thing, it may narrow the field as the laggards realize their campaigns have no legs, and drop out. For another, New Hampshire hones the campaigning skills of those who will go on. They have had to face real people with real questions, and decide whether to give real answers. And, for the real ones, how to tighten up the wording of their answers.
For that, we all owe the people of New Hampshire. We owe them big time. This place is where folks expect to have met each candidate personally, and more than once too. A place where a candidate may lie to you, but has to look you in the eye to do it.
I don’t want presidential campaigns waged only on tv, through social media, or at 10,000-seat rallies. If in theory all politics is local and all politics is personal, then this little, unimportant state makes that so in fact. For a week, these would-be world leaders have to stand up and face a question from a kid about plastic bags, or from a guy who’s just lost his job, or a veteran in a wheelchair, or an immigrant who is proud she has just become a citizen.
Everyone should come see this happen and be part of it. Especially Americans.