- Clearly all the wise guy pundits (I’ll include myself in this category) have been wrong about Donald Trump. He is “real” in the sense that he’s now won a primary and remains ahead in others. And, he can continue in that position as long as the GOP field stays more than three because Trump is winning with about one-third of the vote – which means two-thirds are voting against him, or for someone else. If the field can be reduced to three – Trump, Cruz and, say, Bush -- the dynamics will change. This has been my theory all along. If that happens soon. That’s why the battle for the establishment “lane”. Everyone else wants to be that guy. But time will run out if it takes much longer.
- Jeb Bush is finally hitting a stride –accepting his family name and showing far more comfort on the trail. If the field can winnow faster, he stands to be that other guy because Kasich, while a very good candidate, is probably too moderate for the states next on the voting list. He really is not a moderate but that’s what the current climate does – makes some conservatives look moderate when compared to folks like Cruz and the still-we-don’t-know-what-he-believes Trump. Jeb, though, can’t have “I’m not dead yet” as his campaign slogan – although when he said that he was being “authentic” which is something Sanders seems to be basing a so-far successful candidacy on. So, what’s the problem with Jeb being honest too?
- Talking about Bernie, in New Hampshire he won every demographic except the over-65 voters. Ironic, no?, that the 74-year-old Sanders overwhelmingly wins the young vote and loses the older vote. But not hard to win the younger vote when you promise, to a cohort that faces dim job prospects and huge debt, free tuition and free health care. Plus he seems to have cornered the market on being "authentic" meaning no one else can be, i guess.
- Kasich did well in New Hampshire, comparatively. But he won with 15.9 percent of the vote which is less than former Utah Gov. Jon Hunstman got in New Hampshire four years ago (17 percent). And, remember, Huntsman positioned himself as the moderate in that race. Also remember that he dropped out of the race a week later. Still, Kasich’s finish meant that Gov. Christie and Carly Fiorina dropped out, reducing the field.
- Trump, as the campaign moves south, now can really dominate news coverage by continuing to make outrageous statements at large rallies. The “intimacy” of Iowa and New Hampshire are no longer key because the voting populations are much larger and the primary and caucuses come too fast to allow for house parties and visits to diners and town meetings. Still, he lacks the organizational sophistication, evidenced by his top adviser (his daughter) appearing at events for him and being surprised when reporters showed up…and asked her questions! Or when folks couldn’t get into rallies because the screening lines were too slow. Or realizing Get Out the Vote efforts are essential (see: Iowa).
- Hillary is shifting her message, as the campaign heads south, to focus more on civil rights, gun control, issues seemingly more important to black voters, who are large constituencies in states coming up. Candidates shift priorities all the time, of course, but when Hillary does it, it feeds the perception that she is untrustworthy, which is her biggest issue with voters. So, while tacking to new issues is smart, it also is dangerous – for her. Plus it often gets played by the media as a "change in strategy."
- Trump showed flashes of “decency” in his concession speech in Iowa. But in New Hampshire he spent the first few minutes thanking his beautiful wife, his beautiful sons and their beautiful wives and his beautiful daughter. He got to his campaign manager (who else could do this job??) and, finally to the voters of New Hampshire and his opponents. My guess is that if he did secure the nomination (and I still do not believe he will), we would see a new Donald who is a little less bombastic. The question is, would we see a Donald who has any policy solutions to offer? He is, after all, a performer who apparently knows his audience well. As the nominee he'd have a new audience thus a new character role to play.
- Back to Hillary, she has a women problem – Bernie won women in New Hampshire her by 10 points. A huge win for him. A miscalculation for her seems to be that since the youngest female voters have always had choice on abortion, rights to vote and more opportunities than their mothers, those issues aren’t so real to them. Some don’t even know we never had a female president. Trotting out Gloria Steinham, as much as she has done for women in her life, doesn’t mean much to millennials. And, again, promising free tuition and health care has big appeal.
- Cruz’ third-place finish in New Hampshire is going relatively uncommented on but to me that is a big win for him, and scary for the rest of us. He didn’t figure to do that well in New Hampshire, but he did. There are a decent group of evangelical voters in New Hampshire although Trump (married three times for one thing and a potty mouth of the first order) did well among that group too. So Cruz getting third is a sign, of what I'm not sure.
- I couldn’t figure out why Fiorina was still in the race. Not likely to be a vice presidential choice nor a Cabinet member. Also don’t know why Dr. Carson is still in it. Not a VP either and not enough votes to justify HHS. Higher speaker fees?
- There is a Democratic debate tonight. If Marco Rubio is robot-like, what does that make Bernie? I find myself shouting out Bernie lines before Bernie says them. It’s like watching the Rocky Horror Show – a singalong with Bernie as we all shout “we need a revolution,”,"one percent," “free tuition," “free health care” before he gets the words out of his mouth. As for his average $27 donation form supporters, even Bernie makes a laugh line out of it as he waits for the audience to yell out the number at the appropriate time in his stump speech. Maybe now that he’s dropped out of the GOP race, Chris Christie can do a cameo at the Democratic debates and shake Bernie out of it.
Random thoughts after the first two caucus and primary states:
B. Jay Cooper
B. Jay is a former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He also headed the communications offices at the Republican National Committee, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University. He is a former reporter and is the retired deputy managing director of APCO Worldwide's Washington, D.C., office.