New Hampshire: What to watch for in the primary vote

This week, the Granite State welcomes would-be presidents and delivers its verdict. What to watch for.

Jim Young/Reuters/File
A supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (no longer in the race) arrives for his campaign kickoff rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, United States, July 13, 2015.

Iowa set the scene, and so the race began in earnest. This week, New Hampshire voters will have their chance to weigh in on the ambitions of would-be presidents.

What does the Granite State hold in store for the various 2016 candidates?

Marco Rubio

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came third in Iowa’s Republican race, yet many observers saw his finish as a victory. Indeed, Ted Cruz’s team sarcastically quipped that “bronze is the new gold”.

Yet Mr. Rubio is treading carefully, particularly keen to avoid a confrontation with Donald Trump until the field of candidates has narrowed.

When the time comes and it’s appropriate, we’ll do so,” Rubio said, according to The Washington Post, when talking of taking on Mr. Trump more forcefully.

“I’m not running against any of the other candidates in this race,” Rubio said. “I am running for president.”

But as the pressure mounts on some of the other Republican candidates, Saturday’s GOP debate could turn nasty. Rubio may be unable to stay as aloof as he might like.

A good showing Tuesday may force the field to winnow. A poor showing for Rubio in New Hampshire could extend the race.  

Clinton grapples with controversy

Can Hillary Clinton begin to regain some trust, as she does battle in New Hampshire?

Plagued by an interminable saga of secret e-mails stored on her personal computer, allegations of coziness with Wall Street and other challenges to her integrity, Mrs. Clinton will be doing all she can to change the narrative, shift the focus.

Yet there is little expectation of her winning in New Hampshire. But if she succeeds in narrowing the big lead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, she might spin that as a shift in momentum. Most polls still show Sanders with a double digit lead. 

Ted Cruz again?

Iowa was a tricky vote to predict. In the end, not a few were surprised by the victory of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the defeat of Mr. Trump, and the humble manner in which Trump accepted his silver medal.

But that now lies in history. Looking forward, Mr. Cruz will have a mighty struggle to repeat his efforts in Iowa, a state saturated by Evangelical Christians. Most New Hampshire polls show Cruz in a crowded race for third, behind Rubio and Trump. 

Will Cruz let Trump coast to victory and focus his attacks on Rubio in an effort to secure a second place finish?

What New Hampshire means for Sanders

Many political observers initially dismissed Sanders, saying he didn't have a real chance at keeping up with Clinton.

Yet in New Hampshire, he has an opportunity to consolidate his near-victory in Iowa and emerge as a true contender. National polls still give Clinton a solid lead, but if Sanders does well in Tuesday's primary, it could boost his prospects in South Carolina and Nevada, where the more ethnically diverse population favors Clinton.

The other Republicans

The Grand Old Party has a field of candidates far more cluttered and confused than its rival. But New Hampshire will likely begin the process of paring it down.

Two governors, Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio, one ex-governor, Jeb Bush, and a neurosurgeon, Ben Carson are the Republican outsiders most likely to stay in the pack.

But New Hampshire is unlikely to give all of the Republican contenders a pass to the next stage. 

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