The Republican establishment has been plunged into disarray by Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, which revitalized Donald Trump’s campaign and muddled the chances for a centrist alternative to emerge.
The Granite State result is just about the worst possible one from the establishment’s perspective — ensuring the centrist vote will remain divided, with no candidate in that lane having momentum and a viable path to victory.
Trump won the Granite State resoundingly, being projected as the winner by multiple news organizations as soon as polls closed at 8 p.m. As of 11 p.m., he was way out in front, leading second-place John Kasich by a margin of more than two-to-one with 76 percent of precincts reporting.
Just as importantly, the primary delivered a heavy blow to Marco Rubio, stopping dead the momentum he had received from his strong third-place finish in last week’s Iowa caucuses.
Those two factors alone are enough to cause consternation among establishment Republicans, who hope to see Trump taken down by someone on their wavelength.
“The sense of urgency will certainly increase,” said Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist who advised 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Others are resigned to a lengthy wait.
“Today delayed the establishment unity effort, which now won’t happen before March 1 and may not happen until after March 15,” said Matt Mackowiak, another Republican strategist who also writes for The Hill’s Contributors blog, referring to two days that see primaries and caucuses in multiple states. “Tonight was a very good night for Trump and [Ted] Cruz.”
Cruz, who won the Iowa caucuses but whose fervent conservatism was widely seen as a poor fit for the GOP electorate in New Hampshire, was in a dogfight with Jeb Bush for third place late Tuesday night. He’ll be satisfied with that performance, but it will unnerve a Republican establishment that holds the Texas senator in as much distaste as Trump.
Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee spokesman, said “clearly it will take a while longer” before a sole standard bearer for the centrists emerges.
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SOURCE: The Hill, Jonathan Easley and Niall Stanage