It is now painfully obvious that Marco Rubio’s response to Chris Christie in the debate before the New Hampshire primary hurt his performance in the Granite State. Despite the whining by Christie, Cruz and Trump regarding Rubio’s better than expected showing in Iowa where he captured third and accusations that the media had the fix in for Rubio, any momentum coming out of Iowa ran into a wall in New Hampshire.
Instead, the voters handed Donald Trump a landslide victory. But, that was expected and at least this time the polls were mostly correct. Rubio entered this race in what appeared to be a second place finish and about 15-20% of the vote. As late as yesterday, he was downplaying New Hampshire and any enthusiasm for a second place finish evaporated into “I’m just looking for delegates here.” Unfortunately, he got none. In fact, he dropped to fifth place and garnered only 10.8% of the vote.
In the end, there was no drama in catching Trump who won by 19 points over second place finisher John Kasich. And there lies the problem for the GOP going forward. With every poll there is a poll within a poll and most of them say that even though they may support, lean towards, or intend to vote for Trump in a primary, they would not vote for him in a general election. Further, in terms of favorability ratings among general election voters, Trump’s are the most dismal at -20. The only remaining candidate remotely near him is Chris Christie at minus 17. The one thing in common between Trump and Christie is their obnoxiousness. Unless Trump changes tactics in a general election and transforms into a teddy bear, these numbers do not bode well. And even though Clinton stands at minus 11 in favorability, it is still better than Trump.
Unfortunately for the GOP, the Clinton numbers- although negative- are still better than those for John Kasich which stands at a comparable minus 12. Three Republicans have a better favorability rating than Clinton- Carson and Cruz at negative eight and Rubio at negative 3. Obviously, things can change over the course of nine months and one should not base a choice on favorability ratings, but they do give a glimpse into the minds of the electorate on an on-going basis.
As for delegates, despite Kasich’s surge in New Hampshire where the voters are more moderate than Iowa, he still only has three delegates to date with Trump leading, Cruz second and Rubio third. Coming into this state, the talk was how the Governors would do. Obviously, Kasich performed the best with Bush edging out Rubio for 4th place.
The most immediate problem is that New Hampshire probably convinced Kasich and Bush to stay in the race longer than they should be. Christie is said to be heading back to New Jersey to make a decision on whether to continue his candidacy. One supposes we should be thankful for that little bit of news. The unfortunate news is that Bush and Kasich are still in this race.
The even worse news- as if Kasich and Bush are not bad enough- is that this further legitimizes Trump. As a result of this, he will get even greater media exposure and for what? The voters of New Hampshire sent a doubly bad message last night by their overwhelming support of Trump, and of Kasich- two candidates who would all but ensure a Clinton victory in November.
The conservative attacks on Rubio questioning his credentials over a single issue coupled with the Trumpette/populist attacks on Cruz have only unleashed a two-headed monster and is proving once again that in a field of so many qualified candidates, the GOP is the party akin to the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. If Kasich is the alternative to Trump, then the Republican Party proves all its critics correct. And if either is the nominee against Clinton, they deserve to lose in November. Unfortunately, they also place the Senate risk.