Even as Bernie Sanders was celebrating his win yesterday in New Hampshire, the road ahead for the Sanderistas seemed as dark as ever. The notion that the Sanders victory has shaken the Democratic Party to its core and is causing furrowed, worried brows etc among the party mandarins is complete nonsense. From here, the campaign heads south – into territory where Hillary Clinton leads Sanders forty or fifty points in the polls, all the way to the Super Tuesday contests on March 1st where again, Clinton remains an odds-on favourite to sweep the board. Sanders himself is talking of the Ohio primary on March 15 as being the next real (final) battleground for him. By then, the contest will be all but over.
That isn’t to denigrate his achievement yesterday, or to dismiss the idealism of his supporters and their alienation from politics as usual. But Clinton has this nomination in the bag. The harsh reality is that the Democratic Party machine is calculating that the Sanders people will soon have nowhere else to go, and will ultimately have to fall into line. Because faced with a choice of Clinton vs Trump, or Clinton vs Cruz or Clinton vs Rubio, their assumption is that the Sanders camp will have no option but to grudgingly support Hillary, for fear of something worse.
In many respects, New Hampshire was ideal ground for Sanders. First of all, it is 91% white – and despite endorsements by the likes of the rapper Killer Mike, the Sanders campaign has been getting no traction at all with black Democratic voters. (Closer to the South Carolina contest, I aim to write a column on why Clinton enjoys such solid support from black and Hispanic voters. Whether she deserves to is something else.) Besides being white, New Hampshire is also next door to Sanders’ home state of Vermont, has a low percentage of evangelicals, is a state where the percentage of people identifying as “independents” outnumber the registered Republicans and Democrats, and lastly… New Hampshire operates an ‘ open” primary where anyone can vote in any contest – which leaves open the possibility that part of Sanders’ margin of victory may have been due to tactical voting by the enemies of Clinton.
For all of those reasons, New Hampshire always mattered a whole lot more to the Republicans. Far away from those pesky evangelicals in Iowa, Donald Trump assumed his winners mantle again; even though he is now polling nationwide ten points below what he was before Iowa. ( This may prove to be only a temporary blip.) Ted Cruz will be quietly happy with his 11% vote in secular New Hampshire as the contest now heads into states where Cruz will find many far more voters sympathetic to his socially conservative message.
The real loser in New Hampshire was, of course, Marco Rubio – who saw the momentum that he got from Iowa come to a crashing halt. Nearly half the New Hampshire voters were ‘late deciders’ and the disastrous debate showing by Rubio last Saturday sent prospective Rubio voters hiving off in all directions : to John Kasich (who had poured all his resources into the state, with no plan for elsewhere) and to Jeb Bush. Some voters even went to Rubio’s tormenter, Chris Christie – though not in big enough numbers to keep Christie in the race. Christie got 8% in New Hampshire when he really needed double digits to survive, and he is now widely expected to withdraw. This New Yorker comedy piece suggests Christie may have a new career.
To the relief of the Democratic Party, the Rubio meltdown in last Saturday’s debate looks like being a terminal wound. Of all the Republican contenders, Rubio was the one that Democratic strategists were assuming would be hardest for Clinton to handle in a one-on-one debate. Matthew Yglesias’ gleeful and grateful depiction of the Christie attack on Rubio as a murder/suicide pact was spot on. While also blaming the media, Rubio primarily blamed the right person for his poor showing in New Hampshire.
Rubio will soon get the chance to test whether he is hopelessly damaged goods. In the next contest in South Carolina, Rubio has been endorsed by local senator Lyndsay Graham and local party chieftain Trey Gowdy – and in South Carolina such endorsements allegedly carry a good deal of weight. Both these worthies however, publicly announced for Rubio before he damaged himself in the debate. The other candidate endorsed by the South Carolina party machine has been Jeb Bush. Since a relative liberal like John Kasich will barely rate in South Carolina – and Cruz will do well – the residue of the so-called ‘moderate” Republican vote will be split between Rubio and Bush. If it goes to Bush in South Carolina, Rubio will be all but finished.
And as for Trump…the 2015 wisdom that he is unelectable is looking very shaky in 2016. Here’s an interesting article on a precedent for his success, and why we should maybe have seen it coming.
Footnote : As for the dates for the next primaries and caucuses… in South Carolina, Republicans will be voting on Saturday February 20, and the state’s Democrats will be choosing their candidate on the following Saturday. Nevada kicks off its caucuses at the same time, with Democrats voting on Feb. 20 and Republicans weighing in the following Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Talking of Florida’s finest – Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio – reminds me of Doris Allen, one of the Sunshine State’s more genuine talents. Allen is/was a soul singer from Florida and was active in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Nothing much else is known about her. She did a few duets with Big John Hamilton on the SSS label operated by the flamboyant Shelby Singleton, from his home base in Shreveport, Louisiana – and Singleton certainly did have a fantastic ear for talent. Singleton had a hand in releasing great one-off soul records by Stanley Winston (“No More Ghettos In America”) Eddy Giles (“Losin’ Boy”) George Perkins ( “Crying In The Streets”) and Reuben Bell ( You’re Gonna Miss Me”) among others.
Here’s a couple of classic Allen tracks, in which she can stand the comparison with Aretha Franklin.