The New Hampshire 'Results' We Already Know

Even before votes are cast, we’ve got some results. Here are nine pre-takeaways about the race, the candidates and the country.

MANCHESTER, N.H. ― For most of America, Super Bowl Sunday was a day to relax. For presidential candidates and New Hampshire voters, it was the day before the day before the famous primary.

Elm Street, the main thoroughfare in this small, post-industrial city on the Merrimack River, was crowded on Sunday with candidates, Secret Service vans, surrogates, handlers, reporters and shouting volunteers carrying signs.

Everyone already knows at least one thing about Tuesday’s results: In one way or another, they will be a shocking surprise. Some 40 percent of New Hampshire voters say they are undecided even now. More than that, they are fully aware that their state primary “brand” depends on doing something unexpected.

They will.

But even before Tuesday night, we can offer some takeaways from New Hampshire that are relevant both in the state and elsewhere.

Some results, so to speak, are already in. Here they are.

  • Hillary will have to resort to superdelegates: The Clinton camp is flooding New Hampshire, even more than it did Iowa, with party officials, elected leaders and other “surrogates.” They are all over the state in an onslaught rarely seen here. “They’re everywhere,” said Jackie Cilley, a rare Democratic state official who is supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I just saw Sen. Corey Booker!” The migration is symbolic of, and a precursor to, Hillary Clinton’s survival strategy in what is likely to be a long, drawn-out struggle with the well-funded Sanders. Clinton will rely ― will almost certainly HAVE to rely ― on hundreds of superdelegates who are party leaders. She was tempted to do the same in 2008, when she narrowly lost the nomination to then-Sen. Barack Obama. Contesting the choice of the first African-American major party nominee was a non-starter politically. This time, there will be no such compunction.

  • Voters are into it this year: Turnout was high in Iowa and is going to be very high in New Hampshire ― that much is clear from state officials. The pattern is almost certain to continue throughout the year, and it’s a blessed counter to the notion that voters are so cynical and turned off by politics and government that they will check out of the game in 2016. Not true. And love them or loathe them, two big reasons are outsider candidates Donald Trump and Sanders, who are drawing large numbers of new or only causal voters into the process this year.

  • Vast ideological chasm: With a democratic socialist (Sanders) on the left, a literalist, biblical constitutionalist (Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) on the right and a reality TV authoritarian strongman (you know who) looming over all, the race here and going forward is sure to be one of the most ideologically diverse in modern politics. The candidates are well-funded and in it for the long haul. “I’ve been in politics here since Jack Kennedy and I have never seen anything like this kind of spread,” said New Hampshire state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro. “From Bernie to Cruz and all the rest on the right? Where’s the middle?”

  • The tech world has given us a Rubiobot: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s disastrous performance in Saturday night’s ABC debate may not destroy his chances here, but it has branded his campaign with the image of a pre-programmed robot. What he does about that, if there is anything he can do, will decide whether he can make it in the long haul as the presumptive darling of what is left of the Washington-based Republican establishment.

  • Bush exit right, pursued by bear: That famous Shakespeare stage direction applies to the Bush family, except they are chasing themselves out of their generally good name in New England, if not America. Rather than tout himself and his family ― because that is seen as a no-no in this supposedly anti-everything year ― “Jeb!” is now mostly known in New Hampshire and more broadly as the guy eager to attack everyone else on virtually anything, and do it nonstop. “I don’t get it,” said former Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire, a top adviser to Bush rival John Kasich. “Don’t they have another generation coming along?”

  • Being the guy with the cannoli is not the way to win: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, aka Peter Clemenza, wrapped the length of piano wire around Rubio’s neck in the ABC debate, and the irascible governor seems to have a special dark place in his heart for the handsome Florida senator. But despite his vigor and endorsement from the Union-Leader newspaper, Christi, even more than Bush, is a poster boy for the idea that negative is not a way to win ― even, if not especially, in a year when voters have such a dim view of the future.

  • Trump is learning: He may not win, he may not last, but Donald Trump has learned a lot in a relatively short space of time about how to be an actual candidate. He is and always will be given to outbursts of rage or racism or resentment (or all three) ― every megalomaniac is ― but he showed in his calm reaction to Iowa and his lowered expectations here that he has found a sense of the inside game.

  • Bernie has an orange ski cap problem: In Iowa in 2004, then-Gov. Howard Dean was the Bernie Sanders-ish candidate, a reformist outsider running against money in politics. Like Sanders, he drew young volunteers from across America. They all were given bright orange “Dean for President” ski caps and dispatched across the state, where they knocked on doors and proceeded, mostly, to scare the heck out of the locals. The Dean campaign simply couldn’t control the enthusiasm, or sometimes the micro-tactics, of his horde. We’re learning that the same is sometimes true with Sanders ― the Bernie Bros being the latest example of what the 74-year-old senator needs to contend with here and elsewhere.

  • Being old isn’t a killer: Trump is 69, Sanders is 74 and Clinton is 68. For some reason, the “new generation” mantra ― almost always a winner in American politics ― isn’t working. The most popular ad on the campaign trail has a Simon & Garfunkel song as the soundtrack. So Baby Boomers, it appears, will have one last chance to save America, or do even more damage than they already have done as the Greediest Generation.