The Republican Primary in NH
Brian Smentkowski, Associate Professor of Political Science
· This time last week, NH polls showed McCain leading Bush. Among independents, he had a 2:1 lead, but among Republicans the difference was between 2 and 5 points.
· On January 31, a NH poll showed McCain leading Bush 39-34, while the CNN/Gallop Poll revealed a wider --10 percentage point-- lead for McCain.
· Yesterday’s NH primary found McCain exceeding all expectations, defeating Bush by 18 percentage points (49-31, with Forbes picking up 13%, 6% going to Keyes, & 1% to Bauer). When informed by an advisor that the early results did not look good, Bush asked, “How not good”. The answer: “Very not good.” That turned out to be better advice than he received early on, suggesting that he could perform well in NH.
· So, what’s the story?
· NH proves that Iowa doesn’t really matter --at least to NH voters.
· As predicted by everyone but Forbes and Keyes, Forbes and Keyes did not become the talk of the town in NH as they were in Iowa. They proved, if anything, that they are thorns in Bush side, but that’s about it. Bauer proved that he can’t get votes --or flip pancakes-- to save his life.
· Bush was smart to announce that he did not have “big mo” --momentum-- working for him in (and coming out of ) Iowa.
· Bush and McCain staked a claim --Bush in Iowa and McCain in NH-- and did what they thought they had to do there --win. With all the attention focused on the first caucus and the first primary election, is was important to each to win at least one convincingly, and they did. The question now is, What accounts for McCain’s gain in NH, and What happens after this...
The NH story:
· While Bush concentrated on Iowa, McCain wrote-off the state and began work on NH. With no chance of winning Iowa, it was vital for him do prevail in NH.
· In Bush’s absence, McCain held 114 Town Meetings;
· This established something very important to NH voters --the personal quality of the candidate.
· While the majority of NH voters believe Bush will ultimately win in November, and for those for whom the likelihood of winning in November mattered most in their primary vote, Bush carried 82% of the vote. Among those who believed “standing up for beliefs” is the most important quality, McCain carried 61% of the vote. Importantly, in NH, voters were much more interested in personal qualities than issues or long-term goods. Consider...
· Overall, personal qualities trumped issues, 50%-46%, as important to voters, and McCain’s support among issue-interested voters doubled Bush’s, while he ran 20% points ahead on personal qualities measures.
· On moral values, McCain trumped Bush 47-32 among voters for whom that issues was ranked “most important.”
· The “insurgent” theme was working for him.
· Those who supported the “outsider” Buchanan in ‘96 overwhelmingly supported McCain in 2000.
· He got the moderate and liberal vote overwhelmingly, as well
· He also picked up a solid 1/3 of the professed Republican vote.
The Long Range Forecast:
· This doesn’t necessarily mean McCain is on a roll. Yes, he’ll get good press. Yes, he’ll get more money. BUT, Bush has about $67 million more than McCain. Bush has CA and MI pretty well wrapped up, and is neck-and-neck with McCain in McCain’s home state of AZ.
· What this means is that Bush is running a 50 state campaign compared to McCain’s 2 state strategy. McCain really needs SC, but it leans towards Bush.
· Where else does McCain have support? What can get more? Win SC and maybe we’ll see.