New Hampshire Predictions

January 10, 2012

With voters heading to the polls in New Hampshire today for the first Republican presidential primary, here are my predictions for what will happen. Hopefully I can do as well as I did in predicting the results of the Iowa caucuses (see post here). Feel free to add your own predictions in the comments section.

1. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will win. That has been obvious for months, but the question is by how much will he win. A week ago it looked like he would capture as much as 45 percent of the vote. However, he has had a rough week--due to attacks on his record and his own poorly-worded comments ("I like being able to fire people"). As a result, he will likely be under 40 percent. If he falls several points below that line, his win will be interpreted as fairly hollow and a sign of continued weakness for him. Romney's slim win--really a statistical tie--in Iowa was the lowest percentage of any winning candidate since the modern presidential primary system started over three decades ago. Although his New Hampshire win will not be the lowest (Pat Buchanan only got 27% in 1996), it will probably be lower than most.

2. There is a strong battle for second place between former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and U.S. Representative Ron Paul. Although Paul has been in second place in the polls for weeks, Huntsman will likely surpass him tonight. While Paul seems to have hit his peak support already, Huntsman has been surging in the polls and is the Rick Santorum of New Hampshire as he has been basically living in the state. If Huntsman does not make it into a strong second place, it will be hard for his campaign to continue.

3. The other strong battle is for fourth place as former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich are each trying to be the top social conservative in a state that does not usually support such candidates. If Santorum could top Gingrich again, it would help him solidify his standing as the top social conservative candidate as the race shifts to South Carolina. However, Gingrich might edge out Santorum tonight. While Santorum jumped passed Gingrich in the polls due to the Iowa results, Santorum has been slowing dropping since while Gingrich has been slowly rising. Additionally, Gingrich is a better fit for voters in the Granite State.

4. Texas Governor Rick Perry will come in a distant last place--in large part because he has not even tried in the state. But he will not just be last, but might even come in behind a minor candidate who is not even considered a serious contender. Buddy Roemer--who has notheld elected office in two decades--is a marginal candidate who has not even been invited to a single presidential debate. Since most polls do not include Roemer or other marginal candidates, it is hard to say how they might do. However, a couple of polls suggest Roemer might beat Perry. Another similar candidate who has been spending a lot of time in New Hampshire is Fred Karger (the photo is one I took of him in Iowa in August). If he or Roemer beat Perry, it would be one of the most embarrassing political primary moments ever--even worst than Perry's "oops" debate or Howard Dean's scream!

So I put the order at: Romney (36%), Huntsman (20%), Paul (17%), Gingrich (12%), Santorum (11%), Roemer (1%), Perry (1%), Karger (1%).

UPDATE [1-11-12]: Well, I got the Paul-Huntsman order off by quite a bit. Although Huntsman surged at the end, I overestimated his movement and wrongly thought independents would break toward him more than Paul. Paul did six percent better than I thought he would. I got Perry right, Santorum (and the minor candidates) within one point, and everyone else within three points. I got 83 percent of the vote correct, with Paul alone accounting for one-third of my error. That compares to my 89 percent in Iowa, where Gingrich was half of my error. Here are the final results: Romney (39%), Paul (23%), Huntsman 17%), Gingrich (10%), Santorum (10%), Perry (1%), Roemer (<1%), Karger (<1%).