Republican frontrunner Donald J. Trump beat his polling average in winning the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday–by an astonishing 4%.
With nearly all of the precincts reporting, Trump had 35.3% of the vote–about four points ahead of his RealClearPolitics polling average of 31.2%. Though a few earlier polls had put Trump as high as 36%, and others had a wide margin of error, none of the last several polls released had put him above 34%.
Trump’s stronger-than-expected performance in New Hampshire marked a sharp contrast to his underperformance in Iowa, where he fell short of his RealClearPolitics poll average of 28.6% by over four points, earning 24.3% of the vote.
The conventional wisdom on Trump soon became that he lacked the “ground game” to move voters to the polls, or that he hurt himself by skipping the Fox News GOP Debate a few days before the Iowa caucus was held.
It is true that Trump had invested more heavily in a ground operation in New Hampshire than in Iowa. But another possible explanation is simply that Marco Rubio had a strong debate performance in Iowa and a weak one in New Hampshire.
Late deciders, who swung sharply behind Rubio in Iowa, preferred Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who came second, in New Hampshire. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans said the debate was important to their vote.
This article has been updated.