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no better than they should be in New Hampshire

The thing that strikes me about the results of the New Hampshire Primary is how many candidates did the bare minimum that leaves them with a plausible path to the nomination. Except Chris Christie of course; the New Jersey Governor did not manage that. And Carly Fiorina never had a plausible path to the nomination at all, and did not manage to create one, nor Ben Carson. But you could make an argument for all the other candidates.

First of all, the winners. Neither Bernie Sanders nor Donald Trump had a really plausible path to the nomination before winning New Hampshire, and both needed not just to win but to dominate. Both had extremely favorable conditions (they are the nearly-local candidates, the demographics played to their strengths, and the smallness of the state makes organization and party-insider status somewhat less of a factor than elsewhere) and needed to prove that their supporters would actually turn up. They did! Both men have a much more plausible path than they did on Monday. Mr. Trump probably had a bit more margin; had he taken anything over around 30% of the vote, with a 15% plurality over second-place, he would have carved himself out a path. Senator Sanders, I think, really needed something close to the 60% he got for the Vermonter’s victory not to be dismissed.

On the Other Party’s side, Ted Cruz won Iowa, and should poll fairly well in the South, but if he hadn’t cracked 10% in New Hampshire, and without the support of Party elites, it would have been hard to see him surviving. As it is, a squeaker of a half-point third-place finish gives him what he needs to go on, but nothing more. John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are struggling for what looks like a single open place as the establishment candidate (or the candidate vetoed by the fewest interest groups, which amounts to the same thing) to survive to face Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz in March and April. Because John Kasich did so badly in Iowa and is polling so badly nationally and in South Carolina, he absolutely needed to come in top of the three in New Hampshire by a few points, and did. Jeb Bush has more resources (in particular, more money) than Gov. Kasich and could survive finishing behind him, but absolutely needed to place ahead of Marco Rubio, and did. Marco Rubio, having beaten the other two in Iowa, needed to clear 10% and finish ahead of somebody, and did. None of those four were impressive at all, but neither did they rule themselves out, which may be enough, since they all did well enough to keep the others from being impressive, either. Also, Rubio-Bush-Kasich managed to total just a tiny bit more than Trump, which is just about the bare minimum the Party needed to keep from spending the rest of eternity throwing up.

As for Hillary Clinton, well, it’s plausible I suppose that she could have survived getting even less than she did. She has plenty of resources, and she’s looking for a story of bounceback resilience. Our Previous President got 30% in New Hampshire in 2000; Bob Dole got less than that in 1996. Those were still multi-candidate races, though. I’m thinking that anything below a third of the vote gets real ugly in a two-candidate race.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,