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Dan Gilmore / February 9, 2016

New Hampshire Primary: The Race to Second Place

Can GOP candidates gather enough momentum to eventually beat Trump?

If the fickle polls ahead of the New Hampshire primary are any indicator, then Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders will walk away winners. The question then becomes: Did the two win big enough? According to Real Clear Politics, Trump has a 17-point lead. But if the ultimate poll — the vote itself — shows a more lackluster support from living, breathing voters, then Trump faces a rocky road as he didn’t meet “yuge” expectations.

For the rest of the GOP field, the race has come down to who can finish with a strong second. The polls place Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush in a dead heat. Rubio’s strong third-place finish in last week’s Iowa caucus raised his profile, but that surge was perhaps tempered during Saturday’s debate performance that involved scripted talking points in response to scripted talking points from Chris Christie.

Furthermore, New Hampshire primary goers are much more moderate than those in Iowa. The Granite State could be where the establishment strikes back. Kasich — the GOP candidate who told a voter he’s “the right temperature” between Clinton and Sanders — has placed a strong New Hampshire performance at the cornerstone of his campaign strategy. Whatever the returns may be tonight, we expect some of the GOP candidates to pack their bags and drop from the race as the field becomes further defined.

Meanwhile in the Democrat primary, Hillary Clinton is trying to limit the damage from Sanders’ expected win, but she faces problems from outside and within her campaign. Inside Clinton campaign headquarters, the “inevitable” candidate has been criticizing her campaign staff, dissatisfied with how her campaign communicates her message. (We sympathize: It’s hard to keep the lies straight.) Leaving New Hampshire, she’s reportedly planning to restructure her operation. Looming on the horizon, the FBI finally officially acknowledged that it is investigating Clinton’s homebrew email server. If charges are eventually brought, then Clinton’s New Hampshire results won’t matter.

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