Is Jeb! back? A new poll from Emerson College in New Hampshire — the pollsters who actually got it right in Iowa — shows Jeb Bush jumping to second in the state, behind frontrunner Donald Trump.
Trump clocks in at 31 percent, followed by Jeb! at 16 percent, Ohio Fruit Ninja John Kasich at 13 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at 12 percent, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at 11 percent. And according to Emerson, Jeb!’s surge has been significant: from 12 percent on Thursday to 19 percent on Saturday to 21 percent on Sunday. All of that comes at Rubio’s expense – he dropped from 17 percent on Friday to single digits on Sunday.
So, what do each of these candidates need to do to claim victory in New Hampshire?
Donald Trump. Trump needs not only to win, but to hold true to his polling percentages. Any significant underperforming will create a narrative of consistent overpolling, which destroys any sense of national momentum. Virtually all polls have Trump at 31 percent. He needs to win, obviously, but he needs to show no major drop.
Ted Cruz. Cruz finishing in the top three would be a shock and a win, especially if Marco Rubio finishes out of the money. Cruz is set up poorly in Iowa, a non-evangelical state that has put an end to the candidacies of Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the last two Iowa winners. Cruz finishing in double digits would exhibit an incredible ground game that would make him a top contender for the nomination overall.
Marco Rubio. Rubio has the most to lose. He came out of Iowa with momentum, and he was widely expected to finish second to Trump in New Hampshire, an establishment-friendly state. His stated strategy was to finish third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, and first in South Carolina. If he finishes outside the top three, particularly if it’s behind two other establishment candidates and Trump, he’s in serious trouble.
Jeb! Bush. A top three finish for Bush is a hold, particularly if John Kasich finishes second. A top two is a massive win, and the new narrative. He becomes Marco Rubio after Iowa, soaring into South Carolina and then into the south, where he becomes the establishment pick against the unpalatable Trump and the too-conservative Cruz.
John Kasich. Kasich desperately needs a second place finish here to remain in the race. He’s spent all his time and effort in New Hampshire, been hit only mildly, and retains strong popularity ratings. Kasich is the Jon Huntsman of this race – and like Huntsman, anything less than a second place finish kills his candidacy outright.
Chris Christie. Christie is in the same boat as Kasich, but could finish third and survive. He’s spent a ton of time in New Hampshire, and he still has appeal in some northern primary states – but right now, he’s riding low in the polls. If he finishes in single digits, his campaign is over.
Ben Carson. Carson’s a dead campaign walking. He fired half his staff last week. This seems more and more like a campaign dedicated to growing Carson’s post-election mailing list.
Tomorrow could end as many as four candidacies. It won’t finish Trump, and it won’t finish Cruz. The question will be: who’s the establishment’s man left standing?
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of DailyWire.com, and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.