The “establishment” candidates continue to feud among themselves in New Hampshire to the benefit of Trump and Cruz. Part of the problem is that their voters won’t decide on any one of them:
Jason Grosky, a 39-year-old prosecutor from Atkinson, N.H., who is torn between Messrs. Bush, Christie and Rubio, hopes the lower-polling candidates bow out to clarify which is the clear alternative to Messrs. Cruz and Trump.
“Hopefully, the hangers-on will figure that out,” Mr. Grosky said.
The trouble for these candidates in New Hampshire is that none of them is that far ahead of any of the others, so it won’t be obvious who the “hangers-on” are until it will be too late to do any good. Even if one of them pulls away at the very end, the other three will still be siphoning off some much-needed support that almost certainly would have gone to the former. According to the current average of New Hampshire polls, Rubio, Christie, Bush, and Kasich are all clumped together within just a few points of one another. There’s no clear favorite among the four, and all of them have every reason to keep going at least through the primary in mid-February. Because they’re fighting over the same portion of the electorate, they also have strong incentives to attack their competitors, and that is exactly what they’ve been doing. Whoever emerges on top of the “establishment” scrum may not even get second place there, and he’ll be badly bruised in the process.
Christie and Kasich are betting pretty much everything on a good result in New Hampshire to keep their campaigns alive. Bush has enough of an organization in other states that he isn’t going to give up until much later in the year. Rubio also needs to do well in New Hampshire to stave off stories about the failure of his odd campaign strategy, and he probably needs to win outright if he is going to have a chance at winning in later primaries. He can’t do either of those as long as he’s practically tied with the other three “establishment” pols and Cruz. As it stands right now, they’re splitting up their share so evenly that they’re on track to let Trump through to a victory with less than a third of the voters, and after New Hampshire things will only get more difficult for all four.