Opinion

Opinion | Eric Fehrnstrom

A Republican reality check

Jessica Rinaldi/Staff

Now that the snow has settled, let’s take a look at the damage caused by New Hampshire voters in the first-in-the-nation Republican primary.

Chris Christie

First, a fond farewell to Christie. He was the original angry candidate, going back to his 2009 campaign for governor of New Jersey. He was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa. Unfortunately, he also keynoted President Obama’s post-Hurricane Sandy disaster recovery efforts that year, from which he has never really recovered. Christie adopted as his slogan, “Telling It Like It Is.” Hmm, is there another candidate in the race who might be a more satisfying pick for angry voters looking for someone who “tells it like it is”?

Marco Rubio

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Rubio, from the beginning, has been attacked as inexperienced. Two events in the week before New Hampshire ended up crystallizing those concerns. First, Rick Santorum endorsed him but couldn’t name a single Rubio accomplishment. Then Rubio made matters worse with repetitive debate responses that made him sound like a malfunctioning robot. Both situations combined to undercut his support, particularly among late deciders. Rubio apologized on election night for his glitchy debate performance. With a reboot, he should be able to get back on track.

Donald Trump

In some ways, a media that doesn’t like Trump devalued his second place finish in Iowa. The New Hampshire victory puts him in the top position on the leader board. Trump didn’t just win; it was a blowout. He won across every voter segment in the primary — independents, male, female, all age and income groups. Exit polls show two-thirds of Republican voters in New Hampshire endorse Trump’s plan to temporarily stop Muslims from immigrating to the country, his signature issue.

John Kasich

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No, John Kasich did not win New Hampshire, but you can be excused for thinking he did given the fawning post-election coverage. The former Ohio governor came in second (see: Trump, Iowa). One of the downsides of a single-minded focus on New Hampshire is that you are totally unprepared for the tsunami of states that follow. Most of America woke up Wednesday hearing Kasich’s name for the first time. The question is, can he build an airplane while he’s flying it?

Ted Cruz

For Republicans, winning Iowa has not been a good predictor for capturing the nomination. The last two Iowa winners, Mike Huckabee and Santorum, fizzled. But Cruz followed his first-place Iowa finish with a top 3 performance in New Hampshire. Now he heads south where voters are more receptive to Cruz’s archconservative message. It’s hard to view this race as other than a Trump-Cruz battle at this point.

Jeb Bush

Baseball player/manager Leo Durocher said nice guys finish last. After finishing sixth in Iowa, Bush was looking for a “reset” in New Hampshire, but he needed to do better than fourth place to get back on track. He’ll stay in on the theory that third place is wide open.

Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.
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