2016: The GOP’s Four Faces

State of Play: New Hampshire

Dixville Notch: First voting in the country

First in the nation – everyone knows that New Hampshire is, by tradition and by law, the first state to host a presidential primary. Most folks also know that the Granite State has no income or sales tax, making it the tax haven of the Northeast. You might conclude from those facts that anti-tax candidates salivate at the prospect of winning the quadrennial nod of New Hampshire’s Republicans.  You would be wrong.

Candidates best known for tax cutting, such as Jack Kemp and Steve Forbes, have fared quite poorly in New Hampshire for decades. The days when William Loeb’s conservative Manchester Union-Leader could decide primaries is long gone. Instead, New Hampshire is the most prominent home of an endangered, but not yet extinct, species:  the Republican moderate.

Moderates dominate every New England primary even in the GOP, and the Granite State is no exception. Exit polls show that the Republican electorate has been between 45 and 49 percent moderates or liberals since 1996. The moderates’ choice invariably wins, if they are united.

That’s why Chris Christie and John Kasich are camping out in the small towns of the Connecticut River Valley and in Manchester itself. Both men know their brand of Republicanism skews to the party’s left, and that means they must win New Hampshire or face elimination.

But moderates don’t just like Republicans whose conservatism is less red meat in flavor: they like strong personalities who are self-described truth-tellers.  Thus, it should be no surprise that The Donald, who is perhaps history’s most self-described everything, leads in the polls.  He’s clearly not a Christian conservative (as the table below shows, New Hampshire’s GOP electorate has only a tiny share of very conservative evangelicals), he doesn’t stick to anyone’s talking points, and he projects leadership. He’s a “love him or loath him” figure among moderates – he is both the person who leads among them and the person they are least likely to support – but moderates are a large enough share of the vote here that the “love him” contingent is currently propelling Trump to a comfortable lead. 

As with the State of Play: Iowa post, the tables below show each faction’s share of the electorate, how the candidates currently fare among each group, and some fun facts about New Hampshire’s counties.

Henry OlsenMr. Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, an editor at UnHerd.com, and the author of The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism.

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