Trump, Sanders Dominate Polls as Race Moves to New Hampshire

Second-tier candidates try to break through with voters in the nation's first primary

Trump/Sanders Split
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New Hampshire votes Tuesday with billionaire Donald Trump trying to lose the loser label, Ted Cruz looking to fashion a victory with far fewer Christian evangelicals than in Iowa and Marco Rubio aiming to shake off doubts following his disastrous debate performance.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, hopes to prevent a victory by Bernie Sanders by putting her ground game in New Hampshire against his popularity in the state.

In the country’s first primary, the candidates want to capitalize on their success in Iowa or show their campaigns are still alive. A week after the caucuses officially kicked off the race for president, a state that prides itself on its independence now makes its picks.

“Usually what they do in New Hampshire is correct Iowa’s mistakes,” said Patrick Griffin, who worked on President George W. Bush’s primary campaign and is now a political and media strategist at Purple Strategies New England, a communications and government affairs company in Boston. 

On the Republican side, Trump competes after being handed an embarrassing second-place finish to Cruz, though political consultants in New Hampshire doubt that Iowa’s results will matter much in the Granite State.

“As everyone will tell you, all that gets shuffled and thrown back on a table essentially,” said Neil Levesque, the executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.

Trump accepted defeat graciously the night of the caucuses, but afterward unleashed a stream of insults against Cruz on Twitter, accusing him of fraud in Iowa and demanding the results be invalidated.

Trump was leading in the final 7News Boston/UMass Lowell tracking poll on Monday with 34 percent. Rubio and Cruz each were at 13 percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, at 10 percent, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 5 percent, Carly Fiorina, 4 percent and Dr. Ben Carson 3 percent.

Cruz’s win in Iowa came after he visited often, traveled throughout the state and appealed to two important groups, evangelicals and the homeschool community. Trump had his celebrity name, combative comments and the free media coverage that followed. In New Hampshire, Trump’s campaign appears to be trying to jump-start a more traditional campaign with “Walkin & Talkin for Donald J. Trump” fliers appearing asking supporters to help spread the word.

“Cruz proved that Iowa is a place were organization matters, where identifying voters and getting them out, hand-to-hand retail politics or combat, depending on how you look at it, truly matters,” Griffin said.

Cruz, who is not expected to replicate his success in Iowa in New Hampshire, is looking ahead to the primary in South Carolina. But he could be damaged by Saturday night's Republican debate, where he was forced to apologize again to Carson for his supporters' behavior in Iowa. The night of the caucuses, they spread false reports that Carson was dropping out of the race.

Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, said Rubio’s finish in Iowa means Kasich, Christie and Bush must make a strong showing to become the candidate for the Republican establishment.

“They’ve got to find places where they can punch through because between now and March 15 there’s going to be a ton of contests and the money is not going to be sufficient to wage a decent fight in those places,” Miringoff said. “People may pick a state or two to try to reverse their fortunes but that doesn’t get them in the contender status.”

But Rubio may also be hurt by the debate. He was widely mocked for robotically repeating himself even as Christie made fun of his memorized "30-second" speech.

Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and Democrats who live outside of the United States will make their choice by March 15.

The day before the primary saw all of the candidates but Carson campaigning in New Hampshire, according to the NECN candidate tracker. Rubio had seven stops scheduled, the most of anyone.

Kasich and Christie have campaigned heavily in the state, doing more than 180 town halls, meet-and-greets and other events. Fiorina and Bush have both made more than 110 stops, while at the other end Trump and Carson have made fewer than 50.

Among the Democrats, Sanders is ahead in the polls, but by how much? The 7News/UMass poll has him ahead by 16 points, 56 percent to 40 percent, but one by the Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University puts the lead at seven points, 51 percent to 44 percent.

Both campaigns have been trying to manage expectations, Miringoff said; Sanders by stressing that Clinton won New Hampshire over Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton by emphasizing that Sanders is from Vermont.

Independents, who make up 44 percent of the electorate in New Hampshire, can vote in the primary, which could help Sanders, Miringoff said. Clinton is making a determined appeal to the young women who have been drawn to Sanders.

Griffin said he did not know that Clinton’s organization in New Hampshire — and the support she has from prominent Democrats such as U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan — would be enough to overcome Sanders’ strengths.

“I’m not sure that that necessarily works to her advantage in a race with an insurgent Bernie Sanders who points to the politicians and basically says, ‘They’re the problem, she’s the problem, Wall Street’s the problem, we need a revolution,’” he said.

But Levesque said he would not discount Clinton.

“My opinion is always buy Clinton stock when it’s undervalued,” he said.

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