Here are the illusions:
1. The result in New Hampshire is always a big surprise. The polls are always wrong. Well, this time the polls were as right as polls can be for both parties.
2. Trump’s vote will always be substantially less than his showing in the polls. That’s because his people are weak on political participation, and because his ground game stinks compared with those of the other leading candidates. Well, this time his vote was on the high side of what the polls predicted. I have to admit I was astounded, and not in a good way.
3. Cruz is a political genius whose big and complicated data and ground game guarantee that he will do better than what the polls predict. Well, this time he got pretty much what you’d expect. So it turns out that he might not be an endlessly astute Machiavellian prince in control of the future.
Well, let’s revisit number 3. Maybe the overall result was exactly what Cruz wanted. Now they’re saying again that the real choice now is Cruz vs. Trump. And the perception that he alone could stop Trump is the one and only foundation of Cruz’s surging to the nomination. So Cruz fine-tuned his spending and so forth in New Hampshire to come in third. Let Kasich have second; he’ll get decimated in South Carolina and is overall much less formidable than Rubio. Meanwhile, the New Hampshire outcome mainly will be memorable for making Rubio seem almost the opposite of inevitable.
Let me repeat that the most bizarre and dysfunctional November race wouldn’t be Trump vs. Sanders, but Cruz vs. Sanders.
I still think, however, that it is highly unlikely that either Trump or Sanders will actually be nominated. And a vote for Cruz is hardly required to stop Trump.