In today’s edition: The final metrics from New Hampshire; why Laconia matters; three scenarios for tonight’s Republican field; young voters migrate online; and Chris Christie’s lawyer friends pony up.
Granite State Viewer’s Guide
You know the old line: As goes Laconia, so goes New Hampshire. The small town of 16,000 people located in the Lakes Region has picked the top three finishers in every presidential primary since 2000, according to Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos. And the vote tallies in Laconia tend to come within five percentage points of the actual statewide result.
Why? Well, Laconia is a pretty good mix of the New Hampshire electorate, nearby both wealthy Lake Winnipesaukee and working-class Lake Winnisquam, James Pindell writes.
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner expects 550,000 votes to be cast today, a turnout that would top the previous record of 530,000 votes set in 2008. Polls are open until 8 p.m. Eastern. (Don’t miss our look at the eleven maps that explain New Hampshire’s political geography, here.) And for the first time, voters can publish a snapshot of their ballots on social media, after a U.S. District Court judge struck down a state law prohibiting photos of ballots.
New Hampshire voters were most likely to be contacted by Clinton’s campaign, pollsters at Monmouth University found, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) campaign contacted the most voters on the Republican side. Monmouth asked voters whether they had heard from any of the campaigns directly. The results, among self-identified Democrats and Republicans who said they had heard from a campaign:
Candidate Dem GOP Clinton 39% 13% Sanders 35 13 Bush 8 31 Kasich 8 26 Cruz 10 22 Rubio 8 22 Trump 9 19 Christie 7 17 Fiorina 4 16 Carson 5 11
Candidates spent a total of $111.9 million on New Hampshire broadcast, cable and radio advertising. Here’s who spent the most, combining campaign and super PAC spending:
Candidate Spent Bush $36.1m Christie $18.5m Rubio $15.2m Kasich $12.1m Clinton $10.8m Sanders $8.1m Trump $3.7m Graham $3.2m Fiorina $1.8m Paul $831k Cruz $580k Carson $575k Pataki $374k Total $111.9m
Compare that to Iowa, where campaigns and super PACs combined to spend about $67 million.
Remember that New Hampshire lapel pin Gov. Chris Christie wore to this weekend’s debate? He earned it: Since the beginning of 2015, no candidate has spent more time in New Hampshire than the New Jersey Republican. Total days spent in the Granite State, as compiled by WMUR:
Candidate Days Christie 72 Kasich 70 Fiorina 55 Bush 52 Clinton 35 Sanders 35 Rubio 28 Cruz 27 Gilmore 27 Trump 27 Carson 16
Three Possible Outcomes on the GOP Side
Six months ago, the following sentence likely would have gotten you laughed out of the room: Donald Trump is going to win the New Hampshire primary.
But as voters head to the polls today, surveys show Trump running well ahead of his nearest Republican challengers. The final results may end up being anti-climactic: Trump has led the last seventy-something polls taken of New Hampshire voters.
Instead, the Republican race has become a battle for second and third place, with a handful of prominent candidates fighting for whatever oxygen Trump leaves behind. And though senior party strategists may have hoped New Hampshire might winnow the field and shorten their nominating process, the three possible outcomes all point to a longer race:
Outcome 1: Rubio Closes Strong. Establishment-lane Republicans saw Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) surprisingly strong third-place finish in Iowa as a first step on Rubio’s path to the nomination. If he could close the gap with Trump in New Hampshire, then finish well in South Carolina — where his campaign is making a significant investment — he would force his main rivals from the race and coalesce enough moderate conservatives to win in the long run.
But this outcome looks less likely after Rubio’s weak debate performance on Saturday. Other candidates, led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey’s Chris Christie, have leapt at the opportunity to bring their young rival down a few pegs, and such indicators as internet searches and Facebook conversations hint at Rubio’s slide.
If those indicators are wrong, and if Rubio finishes in a clear second place tonight, Bush, Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich will face pressure to get out of his way. But that outcome feels much less likely than it was just a few days ago.
Outcome 2: Bush As Comeback Kid. Those same metrics that hint at a Rubio slide suggest a surge for Jeb Bush. Remember, New Hampshire’s original Comeback Kid, Bill Clinton, didn’t win the state; he finished second. Bush has come under pressure from even some of his biggest supporters to make way for Rubio; if the former Florida governor beats his protégé tonight, he’ll have no reason not to go on.
Among non-Trump candidates, Bush’s campaign is still the best positioned for a strong Super Tuesday. Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, has made massive investments in such states as Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia; no other campaign is spending as much on down-the-road states — though he has a ways to go before overtaking Trump.
A strong Bush finish won’t chase Rubio from the race, though it would likely spell the end for Kasich and Christie. If the two Floridians go mano-a-mano in the battle for business-class Republicans, the odds of Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) winning the nomination grows significantly.
Outcome 3: Dark Horse Surprise. Kasich, too, is showing signs of life after a decent performance in Saturday’s debate. And while polls show Christie near the bottom of the heap, New Hampshire does like to deliver surprises. If one of those two finishes in second — or maybe even a strong third — they won’t see any reason to abandon the race before South Carolina voters have their say.
Again, Kasich and Christie are battling for the same voters who would find Bush or Rubio attractive, prolonging a race to coalesce the business wing of the party.
But while a Bush or Rubio surprise could chase smaller fish out of the race, a Kasich or Christie success won’t narrow the field all that much. Unlike Rubio or Bush, neither Kasich nor Christie have the resources to mount major ad buys in later states. They would, in essence, find themselves living hand to mouth, while both Bush and Rubio still have the financial capacity to spend big in later states. If Kasich or Christie surprise to the upside tonight, in other words, the GOP race is destined for a long haul.
Younger Voters Increasingly Get Politics News Online
Campaign strategists, take note: In the perpetual fight to earn voters’ attention, online social networks like Facebook and Snapchat are becoming the new battlefields, especially for hard-to-reach younger voters.
More than half of voters between the ages of 18-29 years old, 53 percent, say they have read about the 2016 presidential campaign on Facebook, a new Morning Consult poll finds. That makes the social network the second-most popular source of campaign news for younger voters, trailing only television news shows.
About a quarter of those younger voters say they’ve heard about the campaign on other social media sites, like LinkedIn or Snapchat.
Read more about that here.
Lawyers For Christie
Twenty-eight attorneys at the firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher contributed $67,000 to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign, new filings show. Close observers of New Jersey politics are familiar with that firm: It’s the one the Christie administration paid more than $8 million for what it called an independent investigation into the BridgeGate scandal that hobbled the governor’s campaign early on.
The donors include four attorneys who actually worked on the investigation, and sat in on the firm’s interview with Christie himself. Though anyone with a contract with New Jersey government is prohibited from donating money to a state political campaign, the lawyers are able to give to Christie’s federal campaign.
The Newark Star-Ledger, unsurprisingly, is not pleased.
About That Super Bowl Baby Boom
To hear the NFL tell it, Denver can expect something of a baby boom nine months from now. In an ad broadcast during the Super Bowl, the league claimed winning cities tend to see a boost in births, because apparently nothing makes people more amorous than 300-pound linemen smashing into each other.
But when the Seattle Times fact-checked the NFL, they didn’t find evidence that the Seahawks’ win in 2014 led to any uptick in new babies. In fact, 39 to 40 weeks after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl — the first or second week of November 2014 — the number of births in King County was actually down slightly from the same week the previous year.
Further evidence that football isn’t necessarily family in the Pacific Northwest: Social Security Administration data show names such as Russell, Richard and Marshawn weren’t among the 100 most popular names of babies born in Washington State in 2014.
A previous version of this brief misstated the time at which the New Hampshire polls closed.