While Rubio makes a run on the Granite State, there’s more complexity at play here than meets the eye.
Trump continues to be very, very popular, and his immigration-centered message resonates with New Hampshirites.
Of the 1.3 million people living in New Hampshire, roughly 94 percent of them are white, according to 2014 census data. Just 3.3 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic or Latino, compared to 17 percent nationwide, while about 5 percent is foreign-born, compared to 13 percent nationally.
I grew up in New Hampshire. I knew every single black student (and Chinese, for that matter) that attended my high school. All three black students, and two Chinese. They were my friends. We were a multicultural microcosm in a lily-white state.
From the ground level, immigration and America’s security is the top issue in a state where French, not Spanish, is the second language. Rubio is popular, but NH’ers have their concerns about his stance on immigration.
Trump has switched to a more intimate approach with Granite State voters after his loss in Iowa, and that’s a good thing. He blew out the Exeter Town Hall (it’s a really small town by every standard, home to Phillips Exeter Academy, the gold standard of “establishment” prep schools, where everyone from David Eisenhower to Mark Zuckerberg have attended), causing the fire marshal to bar Fox News from entering.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) February 4, 2016
Could the smaller venues be a result of falling attendance at his super-rallies? Trump claimed 11,500 in Little Rock, but the embarrassing tale of the tape pegs the number in the more dismal neighborhood of 4,000 or less. What’s clear is that the Trump band is no longer as new and shiny as it was a few months ago. Now, he’s just another candidate.
Trump’s failure to invest in technology and shoe leather, along with his missed targets in Iowa lead me to believe, along with people on the ground in New Hampshire, that Trump will underperform his polls there. By how much? We don’t know yet, but it’s likely Ted Cruz knows.
We can safely assume that the pollsters are wrong. They’re always wrong. But polls do offer insight as to what could happen (which the networks, many pundits, and those stumping for a candidate generally ignore in favor of their preferred narrative).
With Trump around 30 to 32 percent in the polls, and Rubio at 15, with Cruz just behind, the undecideds will determine the race. The latest NBC News/WSJ/Marist Poll gives us a clue.
Rubio’s support is shakiest, with 13 percent saying they might change their minds. And with immigration as his big hurdle, it’s a definite possibility. Trump and Cruz enjoy strong support. But for their second choice, where do voters turn?
Trump voters turn slightly more toward Cruz than Rubio, Cruz voters turn to Rubio and not Trump, and Rubio voters go overwhelmingly for Cruz. Nobody else matters–the rest should go home.
Given the trends, numbers, and ear-to-the-ground stories, I think that Trump will underperform, and Cruz will over perform. Rubio will continue to build momentum. A more and more possible outcome for New Hampshire could be Rubio, Cruz, Trump in that order, separated by about 2 points. It could be Rubio at 24, Cruz at 22 and Trump at 20. On election day, voters just won’t pull the trigger for Trump.
If that happens, look for Trump to take his ball and go rogue. Of course, we still have one debate left, and things could change. But I think unless someone self-destructs, it won’t.
It’s supposed to snow Tuesday, and I’ll be in New Hampshire working with Decision Desk. We will all know Tuesday night, but DD should call the race first, so stay tuned to their website.