The latest NH polls (here and here, for example) indicate possible double-digit victory margins for Sanders and Trump, with all of the caveats that apply for small survey samples and NH voters’ notorious proclivity for confounding pollsters.
For Republicans, the value of the late polls are also limited by the timing, which didn’t reflect the full effects of media buzz about the Rubio meltdown, nor the Christie or Kasich media/poll boomlets.
Looking at the worst-case scenario for the Clinton campaign, even a blowout in NH won’t diminish her prospects much in the longer run, since she still runs well in recent national polls. At most the NH results may serve as a flag for what may need to be tweaked in messaging, ground game, tone, policy and other strategic considerations. That’s likely the most useful function of the early primaries for all candidates.
That said, there will be contributions bumps for NH primary winners, with amounts depending on the margin of victory. Also, even a few delegates can swing a party nomination in a close one-on-one race.
But The media will soon be focusing on the coming month of party primaries in megastates that have large numbers of delegates, and the NH results will fade into anecdotal obscurity. These primaries will include four of the twelve most populous states, Texas, Virginia and Georgia, all on March 1st, ‘Super Tuesday’ and Michigan on March 8. There will also be closed caucuses in interesting purple states, like Nevada (Feb. 20), and Colorado on March 1.
Here’s the full primary calendar over the next month, with number of delegates, at-large delegates (in parenthesis) and type of primary/caucus for each state (More details here):
February 20, 2016
Nevada 35 (8) Closed caucusFebruary 27, 2016
South Carolina 53 (6) Open primaryMarch 1, 2016
Alabama 53 (7) Open primary;
American Samoa 6 (4) Closed caucus;
Arkansas 32 (5) Open primary;
Colorado 66 (13) Closed caucus;
March 1-8, 2016 Democrats Abroad 13 (4) Closed primary;
Georgia 102 (14) Open primary;
Massachusetts 91 (25) Semi-closed primary;
Minnesota 77 (16) Open caucus;
Oklahoma 38 (4) Semi-closed primary;
Tennessee 67 (9) Open primary;
Texas 222 (30) Open primary;
Vermont 16 (8) Open primary;
Virginia 95 (15) Open primary;March 5, 2016
Louisiana 51 (7) Closed primary;
Nebraska 25 (5) Closed caucus;
Kansas 33 (4) Closed caucusMarch 6, 2016
Maine 25 (5) Closed caucusMarch 8, 2016
Mississippi 36 (5) Open primary; Michigan 130 (19) Open primary
Three or four days from now, after most of the post-primary analysis has been exhausted, the NH primary results will seem largely inconsequential — especially compared to Super Tuesday.