Andrew’s NH Predictions

For the last month, I have been traveling around New Hampshire and going to campaign events for nearly every candidate (all except Carson and Gilmore). I have waited three hours to watch Hillary Clinton speak, taken a funny video with Marco Rubio, and memorized more than one candidate’s stump speech.

As the election comes to a close, crowds have gotten bigger and events have become more frequent. A committed political nerd with a car can make it to four campaign events a day, such as my friends and I have done. And a few dozen events and a few thousand miles in the car have provided me with more than enough time to have a deep, holistic understanding of the New Hampshire primaries. Here’s my take:


The Big Winners: Bernie, Trump, and Kasich.

Bernie: Bernie is going to have a clear victory tonight. While he has been speaking in packed gyms and conference rooms throughout the state, his supporters are out in force canvassing and phone banking. My best guess is that Bernie will take 55% of the Democratic vote.

Trump: Donald has been dominating in the polls for a long time in New Hampshire. As we saw in Iowa, he will not end up as high as the polls show, but still a clear Trump victory is to be expected. Notably, his events have changed in tone from the ranting Trump we’ve come to know to more of an organized stump speech. His event last night in Manchester was the place to be for everyone north of Boston; it seemed that almost half the crowd did not support him, but just came for the last New Hampshire Trump circus.

Kasich: Ohio’s governor will surprise a lot of people with his performance tonight. He has been battling with Rubio for second place for a while and Saturday night’s debate sealed the deal. After tonight’s finish he’ll look to build a coalition around himself as the top moderate Republican governor, above Bush and Christie, as quickly as possible. The most highly coveted position in the Republican field right now is in second place as the anti-Trump. Kasich will hold it for a while, but he can only withstand being on the receiving end of attacks for so long until his support wavers.


They Needed More: Rubio, Bush, and Cruz

Rubio: Aiming to take second place in New Hampshire after his big night in Iowa, Rubio may not be able to achieve his goals. The gaffe on Saturday hurt him significantly, so he will have to settle for third. It still puts him as the most electable candidate to take on Trump, but third place is not enough for party leaders to coalesce around him yet.

Bush: Jeb came into New Hampshire needing a big win. Unfortunately for him, he will land in the middle of the gubernatorial pack. It is enough to outlast Christie, but he needs to assert himself as the top Republican governor in the race if he wants to stay in until the end.

Cruz: After his win in the Hawkeye State, Cruz aimed to become the Republican’s anti-Trump candidate. It hasn’t happened yet. With demographics that don’t play well to Cruz’s strengths, especially religion, he won’t be able to carry the momentum forward much more. He will need to do very well in South Carolina to reestablish himself a top three candidate.


The Losers: Clinton, Christie, Fiorina, Carson, and Gilmore

Clinton: Hillary’s loss tonight will set the Clinton Camp back a few steps, but nothing they have not prepared for. After a virtual tie in Iowa, Bernie will have strong momentum going into South Carolina and Nevada, but he won’t fare as well there. The real dividing point will be on Super Tuesday where Clinton’s money, organization, and staff will place her as the clear frontrunner again.

Christie: There has been no one more effective at town halls that I have seen as Chris Christie. After many events I’ve overheard attendees say “I was undecided before, but I’m definitely voting Christie now.” People love how he speaks bluntly and directly. However, he was unable to reach enough voters in time. I think he will take a clear 6th place in the polls, but not high enough to stick in the race until March.

Fiorina: The former CEO has proven strong on the debate stage, but her boost from it came too early to help. Leaving New Hampshire with a performance in the low single digits, the real question for Fiorina is how long to keep fighting.

Carson: Carson has not been campaigning much in the Granite State and his numbers are bound to show it. He’ll need to reappear on the radar in South Carolina if he hopes to stay in until March, but I doubt that will happen.

Gilmore: Yes, he is still running. Hopefully he can break his record of 12 votes in Iowa, but it will not make a difference.

In summary, here’s the lineup:

Republicans: Trump (29%), Kasich (19%), Rubio (15%), Cruz (14%), Bush (12%), Christie (7%), Fiorina (3%), Carson (1%), Gilmore (0%)

Democrats: Sanders (55%), Clinton (45%)

The Yard Sign Caucus

A Kasich supporter's decked out Airstream before a town hall event at Franklin Pierce University. Photo by Andrew Plotch.

A Kasich supporter’s decked out Airstream before a town hall event at Franklin Pierce University. Photo by Andrew Plotch.

It takes all of ten minutes of driving through New Hampshire to get a different perspective on the election. The campaign signs that line roads and backyards offer an informal indication of support and committed supporters, similar to the first snowfall of the years that signals an oncoming winter.

Although not a perfect straw poll, there are a few interesting takeaways one can gather from the signs in the Granite State. After driving about 1,300 miles over the past two weeks, these are my thoughts on how the candidates are faring in the yard sign caucus.

Jeb!; JEB… Jeb?: Jeb Bush’s signs throughout the state are some of the most prevalent and interesting. Along with his well known “Jeb!” signs there are others which scream the word “JEB”, in all capital letters with white font on a flat red poster. Most of the Jeb signs are placed in sets, usually of four to eight in a row alongside the road or at major intersections. Clearly, these are not big Bush supporters taking the signs home from rallies, but rather staff or committed volunteers working with the campaign. After seeing so many bland JEB signs clumped along the highway, I’ve certainly become a fan of the exclamation point.

Trump: Most of Donald’s signs are similar to his ego–huge. Standing four feet tall and eight feet wide they are found in store windows, on lawns, and even in front of a few farms and lakes facing major roads, especially in the most conservative parts of the state. Scattered throughout the state you see smaller signs on lawns that claimed the businessman will make America great again.

Bernie: True to his theme of being a man of the people, his signs are small and plentiful. Across New Hampshire both houses and small businesses proudly displayed their Bernie signs, sometimes several are clustered on the same lawn. Some areas have many more signs than others, generally signs are closer to cities rather than very urban areas.

Carly: With signs much better than her poll numbers, Fiorina’s name is well mixed among houses and roads. Sometimes Carly signs near roads or outside businesses are just as large as Trump’s. However, generally they are standard sized.

Kasich: Although they don’t have signs at as many houses as Fiorina, the Kasich campaign worked to make up the difference along major roads and intersections.

Hillary: Although not as prevalent as any of the candidates listed above, Hillary signs are visible throughout the state.

Carson: Not nearly as numerous as Bush’s signs, Carson’s were clearly placed at strategic locations along roads by staffers or volunteers. The proportion of signs is significantly higher than the 3% he is currently polling at in the state.

The Rest of the Pack: Signs for any of the other candidates are few and far between in New Hampshire. Rubio, Cruz, and Christie, although doing well in some polls, have no substantial presence on the roads of the Granite State.

Note: My travel throughout New Hampshire has mostly on larger roads throughout the southern half of the state over the past few weeks. These observations reflect that travel.



This was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

O’Malley to New Hampshire Voters: Hey, I Exist!

O'Malley speaking to attendees at his town hall. Photo by Andrew Plotch.

O’Malley speaking to attendees at his town hall. Photo by Andrew Plotch.

Last week, former Governor Martin O’Malley began his town hall meeting at New England College by comparing his own debate performance to the tiny Who-ville residents in Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, where only one endearing elephant can hear them, no matter how loud they scream and shout.

O’Malley discussed why Clinton and Sanders had dominated the last debate. He explained that the moderators told the campaigns that 90 percent of the questions would go to the two frontrunners. O’Malley spoke about he had to fight his way into the conversation and then make his case in just the few seconds he had.

O’Malley told the sparse audience in Henniker, New Hampshire that his campaign was like a boat and the election was like a river, giving him little control where he could go. Unfortunately for O’Malley, he seems to have accidentally launched his rowboat among cruise ships.

When one questioner bemoaned the lack of debates, O’Malley took the chance to berate the Democratic National Committee for both limiting the number of debates and scheduling them far from primetime. Of the four so far, three have been over the weekends, two of which fell on Saturday nights. Much has been discussed about how minimizing the number of debates helps Hillary Clinton, but O’Malley went on to discuss how Bernie Sanders would not want to add debates because the current schedule helps to ensure a two-person race.

In the same manner as in the debates, O’Malley tried to differentiate himself from the two Democratic front runners by highlighting his executive experience at the town hall. Nearly every question he was asked on domestic policies during the town hall meeting, he answered with a reference to an initiative he had championed as either Maryland’s governor or Baltimore’s mayor.

After the event, the volunteers for the O’Malley campaign asked everyone on their way out if they could help the campaign’s Get Out The Vote efforts. Declining to sign up, I asked one staffer for a card so I could reach out if I ended up being interested. His response: “Do you think we can afford business cards?”


This was originally published on the Huffington Post.

The Theatrics of a Rubio Town Hall

On Friday afternoon, Marco Rubio’s town hall event in Henniker, New Hampshire was my first chance to see him in person. Throughout the event, Rubio subtly differentiated himself from his staff, portraying himself as someone who wants to connect even more with voters, but his campaign is holding him back. It was clearly scripted, but meant to seem natural.

Marco Rubio has impressed me for a while now, albeit only for his politics, not his policies. He is a strong messenger for his ideas and incredibly talented at sidestepping questions to get his talking points across (a skill he has been using often in debates), not to mention young, good looking, and Hispanic.


In New Hampshire on Friday, although clearly a bit tired coming out of the previous night’s debate, Rubio excelled on the stage, connecting with voters on policy questions and sharing in their day-to-day struggles. He paints a picture of himself as an everyday guy fighting for every average Joe.

Before a staffer got to an audience member to ask the first question of the event, Rubio asked a 13-year-old girl who was sitting with her class in the front row to come up and ask a question. He promptly apologized to the woman who was supposed to ask the first question, explaining how he thought he’d just get started right in front. The girl, Maddie, then asked the senator a potentially planted question, “What are you going to do about the newly formed relationship between Cuba and the U.S.?” Rubio hit a home run with the crowd. Drawing on his Cuban background, he lashed out at Obama for his foreign policy building a case against Cuba referencing both China and Russia. After this response, he moved back to the questioner who the staff had previously picked, and once again apologized profusely.

Later on and nearing the end of time for questions, a staffer shouted “this is the last question” before a middle-aged woman stood up. Rubio interjected, saying that he wanted to take another one after hers — and then he took two more. The move made him come across like he wanted to stay all day and talk to people.

At one point, Rubio interrupted one woman before she asked her question by inquiring about the New England Patriots hat she was wearing. After mentioning the pain that the hat brought him as a Dolphins fan, he asked the crowd about how Gronkowski was doing and when Brady would finally retire. It was a subtle change of topic and I’m sure that to many in attendance, Rubio appeared to be more interested in football than the policy at hand. He once again apologized to his staff for going off topic and returned to the event-goer’s question. Yet, with two simple questions of the audience, he made voters in the room feel that they could run into Rubio at the bar or around town and have the same conversation.

I don’t believe that I’ll ever run into Rubio at the supermarket nor that he is actually more interested in football than in politics. However, if he can keep this up, then I think he will be moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next January — working down the hall from Nikki Haley or John Kasich.


This was originally published on the Huffington Post.