Since I was a lonely voice in the wilderness correctly predicting that Cruz would beat Trump in Iowa by a margin of 3-5 points (the final margin was 4), I now plan to let it ride with all my vast pundit winnings in the middle of the pile on the least predictable New Hampshire primary in living memory.
I expect high turnout on both sides.
Trump is not being challenged for first place, the question is whether he ends up at or above 30% and how large his margin is (double digits?). I expect him to underperform, because independents vote for Bernie instead of him and Trump’s weak ground game will again hurt him, as it did in Iowa.
The next five will be Cruz, Kasich, Bush, Rubio and Christie. No one knows the order.
As many as 50% of voters were undecided in the final days and independents (who make up 40% of the NH electorate can vote in either primary.
I expect 2nd through 5th to be bunched up, with all four positions basically separated by less than 5 points, perhaps with a 2nd place finisher a bit outside that margin.
My best guess right now is Kasich second, Cruz third, Bush 4th and Rubio 5th, with Christie 6th.
Kasich has the hot hand in New Hampshire right now, with a strong debate, more events on the ground than anyone (105 town halls) and a relentlessly positive message that sets him apart from the rest of the GOP field.
Cruz has a high floor and a low ceiling in NH and could finish as high as second or as low as 4th.
If Jeb finishes ahead of Rubio they will call that a win. Jeb could jump ahead to 2nd and displace Kasich, as he has the best ground game in the state (his campaign has knocked on 100,000 doors, which is a lot in a state of NH’s size).
Rubio has been counting on momentum to make up for the limited time he has spent in the state and his campaign’s unproven ground game. Momentum carried him to a strong third in Iowa, with late deciders sharply breaking his way. I suspect that will not be the case in New Hampshire.
Christie’s polling trend line has not been good for the past month. His takedown of Rubio, while effective, likely did not help Christie.
On the Democratic side, I expect a large Sanders win, with independents carrying him to a victory.
Another fearless prediction, no one drops out before South Carolina.