Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Who Will Win the New Hampshire Primary in 2012?

Previously, we took a look at the different scenarios of who might win the Iowa Caucus. There were quite a few different possibilities; the field is wide open. The contest in New Hampshire will be almost as important as the one in Iowa, but it has fewer players.

Listed roughly in order of their probability, the following are the basic New Hampshire scenarios, followed by a discussion of the implications:

Scenario #1: United Party. A new candidate enters the race who is able to unify and excite both the Tea Party and the Republican establishment.

Once again, this is the Chris Christie scenario. If Christie enters the race and wins Iowa, it's likely that he will take New Hampshire as well, or come close to it. This is a "game over" possibility: If it occurs, the 2012 Republican nomination becomes a coronation, and the race comes to a rapid conclusion.

Scenario #2: Romney Holds His Lead. Mitt Romney, who has maintained a significant lead in the New Hampshire polls, wins with relative ease.

There are a number of reasons why Romney might maintain his lead. It could be because an unelectable candidate wins Iowa, scaring people into making sure an electable candidate wins New Hampshire. Or it could be because New Hampshirites are unbothered by Romneycare and think he's a good candidate.

Scenario #3: Huntsman Takes Out Romney. Jon Huntsman, whose entire strategy is based around New Hampshire, manages to convince New Hampshirites that he makes a better establishment candidate than Romney.

If Huntsman aggressively pursues the presidency in 2012 (as opposed to some other job), he might be able to beat Romney. New Hampshire's voters may want someone new.

Scenario #4: Pawlenty's Dream. Tim Pawlenty becomes the last man standing, a true consensus candidate. After Pawlenty wins Iowa, Romney implodes, and Pawlenty either takes New Hampshire or does well there.

Given the level of Republicans' dissatisfaction with the candidates they know, this is a possibility. They don't really know Pawlenty yet, so they don't have much chance to dislike him. But they do believe he's electable and to the right of Romney.

What should immediately stand out is that each of these scenarios involves a candidate (Christie, Romney, Huntsman, or Pawlenty) winning New Hampshire who is classified as highly electable on his Profile. It's not that New Hampshire inherently prefers electable establishment candidates more than Iowa; history has shown us that it isn't the case. It simply turned out that way.

Since Republican primary voters place a premium on electability, it's likely that the New Hampshire winner will win the nomination--but only if the Iowa winner (assuming it's a different person) has questionable electability. New Hampshire-centric candidates should fear someone like Christie or Pawlenty winning Iowa, but should not be too frightened by Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain. Rick Perry would present a more balanced matchup.