UPDATED: February 10, 2015, at 11:49 a.m.
Several Harvard professors stand firmly by poll predictions for Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary election in New Hampshire: businessman Donald J. Trump will win among the Republicans, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders among the Democrats.
The most recent CNN poll from New Hampshire shows Trump with 33 percent of surveyed Republican primary voters, ahead of Senators Marco A. Rubio and Ted Cruz, each of whom had 16 percent and 14 percent respectively. On the Democratic side, Sanders leads former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, 58 to 35 percent.
Sanders' grassroots support and pre-election polling numbers in New Hampshire indicate he will likely be the clear winner.
“New Hampshire, of all the 50 states, is probably the best state in the race for Sanders,” Harvard Kennedy School professor Thomas E. Patterson said.
After his narrow loss in Iowa, Sanders needs a decisive victory in New Hampshire, because “if Clinton’s loss is smaller than expected, it will likely diminish his chances,” Patterson said.
This would be an important victory for the underdog from Vermont. The most recent national Quinnipiac survey put the Sanders two points behind Clinton nationally with 42 percent and 44 percent of the Democratic vote respectively.
After New Hampshire, Sanders will likely face an uphill battle. “The election calendar after New Hampshire begins to favor Clinton,” Patterson said.
For the Republicans, the New Hampshire primary serves as an opportunity to whittle down the number of candidates vying for the nomination. Kennedy School lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy ’93 predicts that candidates will suspend their campaigns if they struggle in New Hampshire.
“I think if Jeb Bush, or Kasich, or Christie don’t get in the top three, it’s over,” he said. “I think New Hampshire has the potential to cut in half the Republicans that are still in the game.”
Though Trump is poised to win by some distance, Rubio, the establishment candidate who McCarthy said thrived in the Iowa caucuses, may overtake the New York businessman.
An upset against Trump could be detrimental to his campaign. “If he doesn’t win in New Hampshire, that’s a huge problem for him,” McCarthy said.
Patterson, however, maintained that he felt Trump would prevail.
“The question is whether Trump can translate his poll popularity to votes? It looks like he’ll be able to do that in New Hampshire and that will increase his credibility as a candidate,” Patterson said.
On both sides, the New Hampshire primary plays a key role in establishing leaders from both parties and sets the tone for the primary elections and caucuses to follow.
“It’s the first real vote test of candidacies,” Patterson said. “It’s a source of momentum. If you win there, you get more media attention, you get more funds flowing into your campaign, and you can carry that into subsequent states.”
While the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are important in their signalling effect to candidates, it is dangerous to allow the results to over-inform the voting choices of Americans more broadly, McCarthy said.
“I think that as the country moves to a majority of color-people country in the next generation, Iowa and New Hampshire will remain even more disproportionately white and that becomes even more of a problem,” he said. “The weight of those victories gets undue power in the way the election gets spun.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: Feb. 10, 2016
An earlier version of this article misstated the class year of lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy.
—Staff writer Kabir K. Gandhi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KabirKGandhi.
—Staff writer Daniel P. Wood can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanWood145.
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