Analysis: Fourth Place Gives Bush New Legs; Christie Takes Rubio Down With Him

Feb 10, 2016

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich

Ohio Governor John Kasich took the coveted second prize among Republicans in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

But how did the rest of the GOP field fare?

Chris Galdieri, an assistant professor of politics at Saint Anselm College, joined NHPR’s Morning Edition to break down Tuesday’s results.

Let’s start with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Did he have a good day?

He did. It was not the day he expected when he got into this race, but compared to where he’s been over the last six months, it’s a good day. He finished ahead of Marco Rubio, he almost tied with Ted Cruz. It was not the best day he could have had, but going into South Carolina and the other states, he still has a lot of money. He still has a Super PAC that has a lot of money. His family has strong ties to the South Carolina Republican establishment. I think it’s possible Bush could be in this for the long haul and could surprise people.

What about Texas Senator Ted Cruz? Did he beat expectations here?

He did. There were no expectations for him here. New Hampshire is not a good state for him in the way that Iowa was and the way that South Carolina is likely to be. So for him, any success he had here was gravy, and so third or fourth place is very good for him.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio didn’t have the finish he was hoping for, coming in fifth. Was Saturday’s debate the difference maker?

It may have been. A lot of voters seem to have decided late in the process on the Republican side and if you were deciding late, you were seeing lots of coverage of Sen. Rubio that was absolutely brutal. The coverage was constantly replaying him saying the same lines four times in a row, being on the receiving end of these attacks from Chris Christie and not looking great in the process. If I’m a voter who tunes in late and that’s all I see, I think that probably did hurt Rubio.

We’ve heard some voters at the polls saying it didn’t affect their decision, but then you have others who said they weren’t sure who they were going to vote for until they were in the booth.

Right. Every voter is different. There are some people who decide very early on, they’re very attentive, but then there’s the rest of us. The rest of those voters decide for idiosyncratic reasons. They like to see people up close and personal. Sometimes that handshake from a candidate, that comment they made at a town hall, that one mailing that comes the day before the primary can really make all the difference.

We saw a huge turnout Tuesday. Lines out the doors at polling locations across the state. How much of an impact did that have?

I think it did have a big impact. I think on both sides the winners of each primary were people who were appealing to citizens who don’t always take part in politics. First-time voters, infrequent voters, people who don’t feel like their voice is being head by politicians. For those folks, someone like Trump and someone like Sanders has a lot of appeal and could get them to do something they wouldn’t normally do.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came in sixth and says he’s going to re-evaluate his campaign. Is this the end for Christie?

I suspect it probably is. The debate was his last shot. I think what probably happened is that in going so aggressively after Sen. Rubio, he did a lot of damage to Rubio, but he also did damage to himself. Those voters tuning in late, all they saw of Christie was somebody verbally beating up on Marco Rubio. And compared to the other candidates who were running more positive or more focused campaigns, I think that was not a compelling reason to vote for Christie.

And then there’s Carly Fiorina. She came in seventh. Will she last much longer?   

It’s hard to see how she does. She’s someone who had a moment last summer. She was the star of the first undercard debate. She made it into some of the main event debates. But with poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s tough to see where on the calendar she could possibly have a good night at this point.