No Spinning NH Primary Results Moving Into South Carolina, Nevada
At PPD, we deal in facts and data, and our post-New Hampshire primary analysis is nothing short of a reality check for candidates, pundits and the media. That being said, right off the bat, we implore you to ignore those media pundits and take heed to what we will stress here.
Donald Trump and Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders won by large margins last night statewide and across nearly all demographic groups, but their wins will have a different impact to differing degrees in their respective races. Thus, let’s take each party one at a time.
New Hampshire Republican Primary
Like him or not, Donald Trump had a “YUUUUUGE” night on Tuesday. The frontrunner not only won the New Hampshire Republican primary, but he thumped eight other credible, viable, talented candidates by a greater margin than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney defeated a much smaller, much less talented field in 2012–19% (Trump) to 16.% (Romney). That is also true for fellow-GOP nominee and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who won against another smaller, relatively weaker field by only 6%.
Further, with 95% of precincts reporting, The Donald earned more raw votes than Romney and McCain despite the field disparity, carried battleground and voter-rich counties by a much greater margin, and drove voter turnout to record highs. Republican turnout (275,958) clobbered Democratic turnout (245,173), again, an ominous sign for left come November. Since 1980, the winner of the New Hampshire Republican primary went on to carry South Carolina all but one time (more on that shortly).
Moving on to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who trailed behind Trump in second place with 16% of the vote. He no doubt outperformed his polling numbers and general media expectations, though not on the PPD Election Projection Model. Going into Tuesday, Kasich was on the move with a 16% chance winning the New Hampshire Republican primary. Unfortunately, for him, Trump outperformed his polling numbers by roughly 5 points and our model by 7 points.
That said, Kasich has a very small war chest and an even smaller infrastructure in the Palmetto State, where Trump leads Texas Sen. Ted Cruz 36% to 19.7% on the PPD aggregate average of polls. Prior to Tuesday’s results, Trump had a 56% chance of winning the South Carolina Republican primary, according to the PPD Election Projection Model, which will now only increase.
Gov. Chris Christie succeeded in damaging Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the debate on Saturday before the official vote, but what the media, the campaign and other observers failed to understand is that hurting Rubio and helping himself were always two different things. After placing in sixth place at 7% with 20,291 votes, the New Jersey governor is finished. But Rubio is also badly damaged as the contest turns toward the South.
Rubio finished in an abysmal fifth place at 11% and 29,127 votes, blowing his 3-2-1 strategy. As we have repeated argued over-and-over, this strategy was build on a theory that had zero historical data or other empirical evidence to support it. Voters back winners, and in the history of modern Republican primaries, there has never been a candidate who lost both Iowa and New Hampshire yet went on to win the nomination.
Rubio’s performance was an absolute disaster nearly on par with Christie, and his path forward is almost nil barring a big win in South Carolina–which again, he is unlikely to pull off. We find almost no scenario where Rubio comes out of Nevada (Trump: 58% chance of victory) with enough momentum to blunt Trump, who leads both the Sunshine State’s sitting senator and former Gov. Jeb Bush in their own home state. The frontrunner has a 61% chance of victory in the delegate rich, winner-take-all Florida Republican primary.
Last but not least, the Iowa caucus winner–Texas Sen. Ted Cruz–performed as expected in the New Hampshire Republican primary. If you think he outperformed, as some have suggested, take another look at his face during his speech Tuesday night. He knows what we know looking at the data and the raw vote.
Cruz did not pull significant support from libertarians with Sen. Rand Paul out of the race and Trump dominated self-described conservatives, a bloc he was hoping and expecting to perform much better with on Tuesday. They accounted for nearly 7 in 10 voters, but they went for the winner. Worth noting, the Palmetto State is not as evangelical as the media portray and the Cruz campaign is hoping, and frankly looks more like New Hampshire than it does Iowa, relatively.
That’s the reason it has gone for the New Hampshire Republican primary winner in all but one primary cycle since 1980. We believe Cruz will be extremely competitive, but a combination of Trump’s strengths among Cruz’s core target voters, momentum and the dynamics of the field, it’s crystal clear the frontrunner is well-positioned to take the top spot in South Carolina on February 20.
As far as Bush is concerned, he spent $36.1 million in the Granite State, which breaks down to roughly $1,209 per vote for his fourth place finish. Enough said. Please refer to my declaration Why Bush Failed written back in December because, as predicted, nothing has changed.
New Hampshire Democratic Primary
On the other side of the aisle, the New Hampshire Democratic primary exposed a deeper, more fundamental problem for the Clinton campaign. Hillary Clinton is not well-liked or well-trusted, carrying only the bloc of voters making more than $200,000 and over the age of 65. That is a fundamental shift in her coalition since she defeated now-President Barack Obama in the Granite State in 2008.
No doubt, the Clintons were hoping and expecting to spin a single-digit loss, but she was on the wrong end of a Sanders stomp that has expanded to some 22 points, with 95% of precincts reporting. However, moving forward, it is still more unlikely than likely that Sanders can break into the minority voting block that will represent larger shares of the Democratic primary electorate.
Sanders’ strength is among whiter, younger and more liberal Democratic primary voters and, whether this is the high water mark for his campaign or not, will be decided in the coming weeks.
The next two contests are the Nevada caucus (Saturday, Feb. 20) and South Carolina (Saturday, Feb. 27) primary, where the share of white voters will drastically decrease. In 2008, Hispanic voters in Nevada backed Clinton over Obama by a 64% to 26% margin, and represented roughly 15% of the vote. Considering their growth to 20% in the overall electorate, it is more than expected we will see rapid growth in their share of the primary electorate in 2016.
In 2008, black voters, a bloc Obama carried by a 78% to 19% margin over Clinton, accounted for more than half of the Palmetto State’s primary electorate. Absent Obama, Clinton will handily win heavily religious black voters against a 73-year-old white secular socialist from Vermont.
The only person at this point who can defeat Hillary is Hillary, because the worst-case scenario for the Clinton Camp is if the establishment abandoned her in the wake of a serious scandal–like say, being charged with a felony for breaking the Federal Records Act of 1950. Unless Sanders begins to demonstrate a significant appeal among minority voters, he simply cannot win.