Tonight is the last chance for a number of the candidates on the ropes who have bet it all on New Hampshire — Jeb, Kasich, Christie — to make the sale and stop Marco Rubio from narrowing this to the three-man race that came out of Iowa. But it’s also a perilous night for Donald Trump, whose all-I-do-is-win campaign simply cannot survive anything short of a first place finish in New Hampshire. He still has a massive lead in the New Hampshire polls, and logically should be the heavy favorite despite cancelled events yesterday and a tepid ground game. But ironically for the author of Art of the Deal, he has yet to prove he can close the sale.
What Trump needs most of all tonight is to get his swagger back. Some voters may bail on him when it comes to getting serious in the voting booth, but the bigger risk to Trump is that his supporters either don’t show up (as polling postmortems suggest they didn’t do in Iowa) or defect if he looks like he’s losing momentum. Trump should ignore the other candidates as much as possible and make like he’s still the front-runner. The worst thing he can possibly do is keep whining about how Cruz won Iowa, which not only makes him sound like a loser but makes it seem like the loss did him real damage. If he can’t resist doing that, it’s a sign that his poor impulse control will never allow him to sustain the message discipline needed for a long campaign.