- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A subdued Donald Trump hit the trail in New Hampshire on Tuesday, a day after voters delivered a painful setback in Iowa — a second-place finish that underscored his celebrity-based campaign didn’t survive its first contact with voters.

The billionaire businessman collected the endorsement of former Sen. Scott Brown and said he has “unlimited” funds to dedicate to the campaign, but he complained of a double standard in the way he’s being treated as a first-time politician, saying second place is great for his first election.

Still, the caucuses dented him, as they did Hillary Clinton, who was officially declared the winner of the Democratic caucuses, nipping Sen. Bernard Sanders by a few-tenths of 1 percent in delegates awarded. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump were competing not just against the other campaigns but against outsize expectations — and fell short.

Political pros said Mr. Trump will have to readjust his campaign, putting more effort into the organizing and nuts and bolts that they said carried Sen. Ted Cruz to victory and pushed Sen. Marco Rubio to a surprisingly strong third place in Iowa’s kickoff caucuses.

But Mr. Trump showed little sign of a rethink, saying that the way he saw it, he surged from last to second in an original field of 17 candidates.

“Most people say I did a great job in Iowa. I came in second, I spent far less than anybody else,” he told reporters ahead of a rally in Milford, New Hampshire. “You look at other people, in all fairness — senators, governors — they’re way down.”

Mr. Trump holds a commanding lead of 22 percentage points in the latest RealClearPolitics.com average of New Hampshire polls, giving him a leg up on his competitors and the inside track for a first-place finish in next Tuesday’s primary.

But that’s not the case for Mrs. Clinton, who trails Mr. Sanders by 18 percent in the RealClearPolitics.com average.

Still, the former secretary of state continues to push the notion that she’s the Democratic Party’s inevitable presidential nominee, and on Tuesday she all but ignored her heated primary battle with Mr. Sanders and instead directed her fire at Republicans — a move designed to convince voters the primary already is winding down and it’s time to begin planning for the general election.

“It could not [be] more stark between what I offer and what the Republicans offer, between my record of results and their efforts to turn back the clock on all the progress we’ve made in America,” Mrs. Clinton said at a campaign rally in New Hampshire before praising the economic policies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and promising similar results if she’s elected.

“Incomes went up for everyone, not just those at the top. Middle-class families, working people and, most importantly to me, because of my long advocacy on behalf of kids, we lifted more people out of poverty in those eight years than at any other recent time in American history. That matters,” she said.

But Mrs. Clinton’s bravado isn’t rooted in reality, specialists say, and instead is the opening salvo of what’s sure to be a weeklong effort to convince voters that Mr. Sanders isn’t electable and the party should line up behind her campaign.

Lara Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University, said Mr. Sanders can make an equally strong case that he’s the current Democratic front-runner.

“He may just say, ‘You know what? We’re winning. We did extraordinarily well in Iowa, and we’re going to win New Hampshire, and we’re going to keep on winning.’ He may decide this is the time to take it to Republicans as well,” Ms. Brown said. “He may try to claim this idea that he’s really the leader of the pack, not her, and that his revolution has now become a legitimate movement, and now they need to become a victorious movement.”

Mr. Sanders seemed as confident as ever during a speech Tuesday afternoon in New Hampshire. Despite the fact that he technically lost in Iowa, it’s clear the Sanders campaign sees itself as, at worst, the co-winner of the caucuses.

“Last night in Iowa, we took on the most powerful political organization in this country,” he told a raucous crowd of supporters. “Last night we came back from a 50-point deficit in the polls, and last night we began the political revolution not just in Iowa, not just in New Hampshire, but all over this country.”

Mr. Sanders had vowed to bring new voters into the election — but it’s unclear how successful he was. Overall Democratic turnout, at about 171,000 voters, was down nearly 30 percent compared to 2008, which was when then-candidate Barack Obama defeated Mrs. Clinton.

Republicans, by contrast, easily set a new turnout record, with more than 186,000 caucusgoers. That’s 50 percent better than their 2012 turnout.

That bodes well for the GOP: The party with the highest caucus turnout has gone on to win the White House in three of the last four contested elections.

Mr. Trump said he expects to be the nominee, and predicted a first-place finish in New Hampshire.

But analysts said his Iowa second-place showing exposed holes in his operation.

“His approach didn’t work. The braggart who touted his first-place position in polls is now a loser in the only poll that really mattered when votes were actually counted,” said Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist with several presidential campaigns under his belt.

“The challenge now is, in order to survive going forward, Trump will have to become a bit more of a traditional candidate,” Mr. Madden said. “Will he look to do a better job with organization? Will he fight the Cruz and Rubio surges with paid media in New Hampshire and South Carolina? Will he do the same against the outside groups that now focus their efforts on him? Trump the traditional candidate may not be as alluring to voters, or as effective, as Trump the celebrity candidate.”

Mr. Trump had hoped to win Iowa on the strength of attracting new voters who weren’t regular caucusgoers, but who were enticed into the election by the strength of his message. Douglas Heye, a GOP strategist and former Republican National Committee spokesman, said that didn’t happen.

“On the first test in Iowa, the Trump campaign failed — in large part, because of such a lack of organization, scores of caucus sites had no one to speak for Trump. You can’t just wish your voters to show up, you have to help them turn out,” Mr. Heye said.

Mr. Trump, however, said he was happy with his Iowa turnout. His tally — more than 45,000 votes — would have been enough to win any previous caucus.

“I think the result was quite good, especially for the amount of time I spent and the amount of money I spent,” he said.


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