Politics & Policy

A Bad Night for Conservatives in New Hampshire

Trump rallies supporters in Manchester, February 9, 2015. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty)

Donald Trump won a convincing victory in New Hampshire. We congratulate him, and hope that we will not have to do it many more times.

Republicans have had only two contests in the presidential race so far. In Iowa, Ted Cruz took on Donald Trump — pointing out that he has always been willing to use government power to help himself at the little guy’s expense — and won. In New Hampshire, the other candidates were busier fighting one another than challenging him, and he won big. The New Hampshire results do not make us think that Trump is the inevitable nominee. They do make us think that he will be the nominee if he remains effectively unopposed.

But Republicans who would like a conservative to win the nomination are having a hard time deciding on a candidate. John Kasich, the candidate who, after Trump, is the least committed to limited constitutional government, took second place in New Hampshire, but he lacks a national organization, discipline, and much appeal to conservatives.

Ted Cruz won an admirable victory over both Trump and the ethanol lobby in Iowa and has shown grace in handling baseless charges of vote-stealing there. His strong support among “very conservative” voters and Evangelical Christians will help him in many states, but he needs a broader base of support to win the nomination.

#share#Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio each have their merits, but neither of them has cracked the top two yet. Both of them have something to prove now. After a performance at the last debate that even he now admits was disappointing, Rubio has to show that he can come back from adversity: that he is a man of real substance, not just a pretty face. Bush, meanwhile, has to show that his campaign is about more than fundraising and endorsements, even with policy papers in the background. His diffidence, his ambivalence about leading today’s Republicans, his tendency to gaffes: All of them have to be buried. And both Rubio and Bush should embrace a more realistic view of immigration. They ought to make it absolutely clear that the law will be effectively enforced, and the illegal population measurably declining, before any consideration of an amnesty.

As for the rest of us, who vote and watch: We should settle in for a protracted struggle.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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