I had to go back and watch the debate. I just refused to participate in the debate on Saturday. It was both Super Bowl weekend and Mardi Gras weekend. We had friends over, gumbo, king cakes, and a nice evening that I wished to be unspoiled by politics.
I did keep up with twitter and it was a very interesting thing to go back and watch the debate after digesting the Twitter commentary. I would note that a lot of overly harsh critics of Donald Trump had to admit he did not have a bad debate.
I think that is true and I think Trump might have sealed the deal on Saturday night with New Hampshire voters. Yes, I think Jeb Bush got the better of Trump on the eminent domain exchange, but Trump’s campaign did a good rapid response job of pushing out Bush family eminent domain stories shortly thereafter. Trump had a good open, seemed more subdued throughout the debate, and I think it worked for him.
Polling in New Hampshire can be volatile, but it is nothing compared to polling in Iowa. In Iowa, people have to turn out all at the same time in a highly coordinated ground game. New Hampshire is just another election. Sure, it will probably snow on Tuesday, but the debate gave Trump supporters every reassurance that he is still in the game and committed to victory.
Unlike a lot of media folks now bashing Rubio’s performance, I suspect Rubio will come in second, but I don’t think the media can afford to play up a Rubio second place like they played up a Rubio third place in Iowa. This will be an actual victory for Donald Trump. Many of us who were cheering on his position in Iowa are going to have to give sufficient gloating rights to his supporters tomorrow night.
They bounced out of Iowa with wind out of their sails, regrouped, and I would not be surprised to see a Trump victory in New Hampshire. It will also give Trump supporters a new talking point. The victor of New Hampshire is more often the GOP nominee than the victor of Iowa.
Donald Trump’s campaign has shown itself to be flexible. That is going to matter going forward as the campaigns then pivot to South Carolina and the south in general. If he does actually pull off a win in New Hampshire, it will not be an upset. It will be earned.
The caution for Trump thereafter will be the rapid consolidation of the race as other candidates drop out and take media air time away from Trump. I have no doubt, however, that he will figure out novel ways to get the camera back on his campaign.