Will New Hampshire rescue Kasich, Christie, and Graham? Or is the McCain miracle of 2008 a unique, one-off case that should not be extrapolated beyond that one-time context 7 years ago? New Hampshire is intimate and every vote counts, but do New Hampshire GOP voters allow any old outsider into their minds and hearts? Clearly not. In other words, how big a base outside of the Granite State do they need in order to do well in New Hampshire? And even if they do, will it be sustainable?

But there’s another way of looking at the New Hampshire primary: what if other primaries in 2016 become more like New Hampshire’s? It seems impossible given the cost structure of media exposure in other markets and the primary calendar itself. But 2016 may just be different enough and GOP voters may just be willing enough to vote for a far wider range of candidates to make it possible. Imagine a GOP field still fairly crowded by the time March rolls around. After South Carolina in other words. Imagine it stays crowded through March. Impossible? Perhaps by Super Tuesday, March 1, it will have been decided as usual.

Imagine if not? While concentrating primaries into staggered schedules helps candidates focus time and money, it also means the contest is over by March. And it’s the party structure that decides and allocates delegates. Delegates may be local but it’s all about how they get chosen. And that gets decided at party headquarters. Maybe it’s cruel to outsiders – and one can argue how much of an outsider in terms of the party structure McCain really was – but its supporters would say it ensures a winning GOP candidate. And that, they say, is the only goal that matters. That attitude does not sit will with conservatives, be they Tea Party supporters or not. And it has not always produced winning candidates either. So will New Hampshire matter? Undoubtedly it will. Even if does not rescue Christie, Kasich, or Graham.

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