Wednesday, 10 February 2016

US Presidential election: New Hampshire caucus

(NOTE: I wrote the bulk of this piece before results were announced for New Hampshire. The article is concluded with info about that too)

The US Presidential election has shifted to the next big battleground state of New Hampshire. As the election gets inexorably closer, things get prickly. To get to the top, politicians require sheer strength of will.

The latest round of debates represent a shift towards a more darker side of politics. Only one of the dozen people currently running is actually going to sit in the Oval Office by this time next year. Let's have a look and see who's come out fighting, and who's struggling to stay afloat.

Democrat debate in New Hampshire

With Martin O'Malley dropping out of the Democrat field following a poor showing in Iowa, it's a two-horse race now. Voters must choose: Feel the Bern, or Vote Hillary.

This time 8 years ago, Mrs Clinton was beginning to struggle against the young and charismatic Barack Obama. During the 2008 primaries, many felt the blows dealt by Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton were probably a tad too much.

Some of the biggest zingers in NH this time round were related to Mrs Clinton's perceived  closeness to Wall Street. Mr Sanders reached out to viewers with this zinger:

"The Middle Class bailed out Wall Street in their time of it is Wall Street's time to help the Middle Class..."

Mrs Clinton chose to focus on the achievements accrued during the Obama Presidency, when she chose to speak of the Affordable Care Act; the government has intervened, to ensure that a large chunk of the population, who reside on the lower end of the income scale, has access to affordable health care.

"I want to build on it...", said Mrs Clinton. "...Get costs down, get prescription drug costs down. Senator Sanders wants us to start all over again...It is helping people right now".

(Post-caucus update)

Senator Sanders went on to win New Hampshire, with about 60.9% of votes, to Hillary Clinton's 38.2%. Polls in the run-up to the result indicated Mr Sanders would beat Mrs Clinton, but the margin had widened somewhat on the actual night itself.

Current score: Senator Sanders in the lead, with 36 delegates, with Mrs Clinton trailing close behind on 32 delegates.

The GOP corner

Where shall we begin. It was unintentionally funny really. Take a look at this moment of TV gold.

The awkwardness began even before the debate began! It was when the candidates were filing onto the stage during the live broadcast that Ben Carson seemingly panicked. He just stopped in the wings, and refused to come on, even though he had a camera right on him.

But never fear! Donald Trump is here! He got called onto the stage, but noticed this bizarre moment of panic by Mr Carson, and kindly stopped to stand awkwardly with Carson in the wings briefly.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio got called up, and just strolled through the wings, as if nothing was wrong.

It took until Jeb Bush was called onto the stage that it became painfully funny.

He awkwardly had to maneuver past the pair, as if it was a secondary school corridor, and they were the jocks and Mr Bush was the nerdy-stereotype kid, on the way to the next lesson.

The highlight of the Republican debate in NH was the epic fall from grace by Marco Rubio. Watch the horror unfold in the video below.

Admittedly, he didn't have far to fall, given that he has never actually been able to steal the limelight from the Donald during the campaign.

In Iowa, he surprised some by coming third, but the NH debate was a comedown of sorts, or at least an adjustment back to reality, after a bubble, following Iowa.

Mr Rubio answered a direct question with a scripted but typical and easily-forgettable answer. It should have been fine after that:

"And let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing, he knows exactly what he's doing" he said.

What happened next was something of a 404 Error/cannot compute moment for Mr Rubio. He somehow ended up saying a rehashed version of the phrase later on. Chris Christie noticed, and ripped him for repeating, and as a result, painted him as a Washington automaton.

All Rubio could do was repeat the assertion another time, but the damage was done. The audience were cheering, and now the "Marco Rubio is a robot" idea has stuck, at least for the time being.

On the caucus night itself, Donald Trump came first with 35.3%. It's Mr Trump's first proper victory over his fellow competitors, and most of the other Republican contenders failed to get into the double digits for a poll share.

Two contenders chose to drop out of the race today, following a dismal showing in both Iowa and NH. At the time of writing, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie have suspended their campaigns.

What's the score now? Trump leads the field with 17 delegates, to Ted Cruz's 11.

Final remarks

NH was a bit of a wacky caucus, in this lengthy race to elect the 45th President of the United States. On the Democrat side, Senator Sanders has shown resilience, despite the assumption by many that establishment candidate Hillary Clinton will sweep him aside.

At this point, let's assume the Clinton campaign will pip Senator Sanders, but by a slim margin. Enough to remind her how close she was to losing it all, for a second time.

The Republican side is a mess. The two frontrunners, Trump and Cruz, are the savage wolves in the sheep farm. They are tearing chunks out of each other, and dirtying the reputation of the GOP as they do it.

All the establisment GOP types can do is sit and watch as the GOP makes itself unelectable for another 8-year cycle. Probably time to get a good long book and set an alarm for 2024 perhaps?

No comments:

Post a Comment