MANCHESTER, New Hampshire, USA – Voters in New Hampshire, set to hold the United States’ first presidential primaries on Tuesday, February 9, sometimes surprise and often make up their minds at the last moment.
The results could change the campaign’s course, with weaker candidates knowing that a poor showing might signal the end of their White House dreams for 2016.
Here’s what’s worth watching closely:
DONALD TRUMP: After leading 75 consecutive polls in New Hampshire since May, the controversial billionaire is hoping to erase last week’s humiliation in Iowa, where he came second in the state’s Republican caucuses that kicked off the nomination race.
That result followed his decision to snub a debate after polls put him in first place.
But the last Republican debate on Saturday went relatively well for Trump. Two Monday polls put him 21 and 14 percentage points ahead of his nearest Republican rivals. Anything short of victory on Tuesday, however, risks seriously undermining his image as a winner who wants to “make America great again.”
The second-place finisher is also worth watching. Polls predict a heated contest between establishment candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich, and Ted Cruz, the ultraconservative Texas senator who won in Iowa.
HILLARY CLINTON: The former secretary of state faces a tough challenge in New Hampshire from Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist senator from neighboring Vermont, who has led 33 consecutive polls since early January. Two Monday polls put him 12 and 16 points ahead in the state.
Clinton won a razor-thin victory in Iowa last week with 49.8% against Sanders’s 49.6%.
If she can close the gap on Tuesday, experts predict she can seize back the initiative ahead of primaries in southern states where she is the big favorite. If Sanders scores big, however, the race for the Democratic nomination could last longer and prove more difficult than expected for the candidate who began her campaign as the undisputed frontrunner.
Clinton pulled off a victory over Barack Obama in New Hampshire in 2008 – after the future president upended the race by defeating her in Iowa. In 1992, her husband Bill’s second-place finish saved his presidential campaign, earning him the nickname “the comeback kid.”
MARCO RUBIO: The telegenic Florida senator – the Republicans’ youngest candidate at age 44 – is hoping to capitalize on his better than expected results in Iowa. He placed third, surprisingly close to Trump, making him the hope of establishment Republicans looking to back a candidate more presentable than Trump or Cruz.
However, Rubio performed poorly during the Republican debate on Saturday night, when he was lambasted for mechanically repeating the same tirade against Obama five times.
GOVERNORS: Jeb Bush – the former Florida governor and son and brother of presidents – Ohio Governor Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are fighting to maintain their credibility and in Christie’s case, his survival in the race. The moderate Kasich could surprise in a state where 44% of voters are independents who tend care more about ideas than party affiliations. – Rappler.com