Stateside,  Vote 2016

Rubio malfunctions in New Hampshire

Remember what I wrote only last week after the Iowa caucuses, in which Donald Trump finished second and Marco Rubio third?

You don’t run a successful campaign on big crowds and bluster alone. It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of the end for Trump. After all, if you campaign largely on the arrogant premise that you are a “winner” and all your opponents are “losers,” you really need to, y’know, win. I’m not sure he has a Plan B for running as a humbled, beseeching loser.
Rubio finished close behind Trump, and did a lot better than the polls had indicated. He is likely to become the “Great Hispanic Hope” of the GOP establishmentarians who detest both Cruz and Trump.

Well, never mind. Trump continued to bluster and throw nasty personal insults at his opponents, and still won big in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. And after a disastrous debate performance on Saturday, in which Rubio couldn’t seem to stop repeating mechanically that Obama knows exactly what’s he’s doing (something vaguely sinister), Rubio ended up in fifth place. It’s hard to see how he recovers, but anything seems possible this year.

So are anti-Trump and anti-Ted Cruz Republicans prepared to rally around John Kasich, who finished a surprise second in New Hampshire but committed Republican political heresy as governor of Ohio by accepting Medicaid expansion under the dreaded Obamacare? Will Jeb Bush finally figure out a way to start winning somewhere? Who knows? But Trump’s message will probably resonate among rank-and-file Republicans in other parts of the country, and as of today he looks like the favorite to win the GOP nomination. (After possibly inflicting the mortal wound to Rubio at the debate, Chris Christie has ended his campaign.)

As Jonathan Chait writes, the Republican establishment “richly deserves its predicament.”

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders scored a huge victory over Hillary Clinton. (I expected him to win, but not by so much.) So the pressure is on Clinton to start winning when the race moves to states with more African-American and Hispanic Democrats, who (perhaps pragmatically) tend to support her over Sanders. Writing at The Washington Monthly, Martin Longman notes that what really matters at the end of this long and convoluted process is the delegate count, and that Clinton has a big advantage there.

Nonetheless Trump put his finger on something important: that both he and Sanders have, better than their rivals, tapped into the economic anxiety and sense of unfairness among many Americans, even if they have vastly different ideas about who is responsible and what to do about it.

“The only thing [Sanders] does know, and he’s right about, is that we’re being ripped off; he says that constantly; and I guess he and I are the only two that really say that.”