For These Four GOP Candidates, Pressure Mounts To Survive N.H. Primary

Jan 21, 2016

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich.
Credit NHPR file photos

With every day that passes leading up to the New Hampshire primary, the pressure builds on Republican presidential hopefuls looking to make a splash here.


Chris Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College, joined NHPR's Morning Edition to talk about all things New Hampshire primary.

We’re now less than three weeks away from voters heading to the polls here in the Granite State. On the Republican side, which candidates are under the most pressure to do well here?

I think the candidates under the most pressure are what I’m calling the quartet of mainline Republicans: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Marco Rubio. These are four candidates who are all appealing to the same pool of voters here in New Hampshire. They’re all, based on their records, candidates who you’d expect to do well here. However, there are four of them. They’re all trailing Donald Trump and they are likely to be also competing with Ted Cruz, who’s also going to do well coming out of Iowa.

Right, it’s a dwindling pool of voters here.

Exactly, so the pressure is on each of these four to be the one remaining candidate from that four standing when the dust settles on primary night.

Of course, Jeb Bush was seen as an early favorite in the race, and now we’re seeing a super PAC supporting him virtually unload its resources with an blitz leading up to Iowa and New Hampshire.

Is it basically do or die time for Bush?

Jeb Bush
Credit Kate Harper for NHPR

Exactly. Given all of Bush’s advantages, if he does not place at least in the top three coming out of New Hampshire, it’s really difficult for him to justify continuing his campaign. For his super PAC, they’re sitting on millions of dollars, and they’d rather have no money and a Jeb Bush in the top three the day after the primary than a few million in the bank and a Jeb Bush placing sixth or worst.

Because they want to live to see another day.

Exactly.

What do these candidates need to do heading into the final days before Iowa and New Hampshire? What’s the strategy?

I think they’re trying to identify their voters. They’re trying to tear down their opponents. We’re starting to see lots of negative attacks back and forth, attacking candidates on everything from their voting records to their position on arcane tax policies. The candidates in the same tracks are essentially trying to get to the top of the track that they’re in.

Just trying to be number two to Donald Trump at this point.

Potentially. There’s also the possibility that something will happen to Trump between now and then. If it does, it’s probably not going to be something a candidate does. But it’s entirely possible for example he could place second to Ted Cruz in Iowa and that could lead to a catastrophic collapse of Trump’s support. I think that’s in the back of everybody’s mind and then somebody who is polling second or third right now might potentially finish first or second in the primary.

The frontrunner in the GOP field of course continues to be Donald Trump, and he rolled out a big endorsement this week: former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Do you see this having an impact here in New Hampshire?

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announces her endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Ames, Iowa, on Tuesday.
Credit Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

It might have some. Palin is not a Republican who would probably do well in New Hampshire if she were running herself, but she does help Donald Trump shore up his support among conservatives. One of the potential attacks that people have not really made that much against Trump is that he is in a lot of ways fairly moderate on a lot of social issues. He has taken positions on taxes that break from Republican orthodoxy. So, for someone like Palin who is still thought of pretty favorably by a lot of Republicans to endorse Trump, I think that helps Trump among those voters. It also potentially hurts someone like Ted Cruz, who’s trying to come at Trump from the right.

So shoring up that Evangelical and tea party support?

Exactly, and the Evangelical vote is not huge in New Hampshire, but if you can cut into that support, that helps Trump and hurts Cruz.

On the Democratic side, a poll this week conducted by the UNH Survey Center stunned a lot of people. It has Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders with a massive 27-point lead over Hillary Clinton.

Clinton supporters are downplaying this poll, calling it an outlier, so should we read anything into this?

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders
Credit Kate Brindley for NHPR

I think it probably is an outlier. If you do enough polls, eventually you’ll get samples that have these really dramatic results. But I also think that the Sanders lead is consistent with the surveys we’ve seen of New Hampshire since the beginning of the year. That suggests to me that Sanders really is ahead here and that the Clinton campaign has a dwindling amount of time to try to change people’s minds.