Eric Thayer / Reuters

In New Hampshire, voters try to get into the picture

Results could edit the GOP field, but most candidates expect a ticket out of Granite State

For those who hoped New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary would serve as a snapshot of the 2016 election cycle, Tuesday could prove a more literal reward than expected.

The Granite State has a new voter ID law this year, and while those who arrive at the polls without the required forms of identification will still be allowed to cast a ballot, they must first sign an affidavit and also let a poll worker take their picture. Ballot-access advocates worry the process could lead to voter intimidation, as well as depress turnout due to longer lines at polling places. According to a Los Angeles Times column by Ari Berman, author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” wait times “increased by 50 percent when the [New Hampshire] voter ID law was partially implemented, without the camera requirement, during the 2012 election.”

While the new ID rules are not likely as big a deterrent to participation as the “high barrier” caucus process seen last week in Iowa, the candidates currently enjoying solid leads in New Hampshire surveys — Republican businessman Donald Trump and Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — are also the ones who have the most to lose if turnout is low.

In the case of this primary, however, the meaning of “lose” is relative. It would be a major upset, indeed, if Trump and Sanders did not finish first in their party’s contests Tuesday. But if their winning margins are substantially smaller than predicted by the polls, it will allow others in the race to declare a kind of victory — much the way Florida Senator Marco Rubio did with his stronger-than-expected third-place finish in Iowa’s Republican caucuses, or the way Bill Clinton dubbed himself “The Comeback Kid” in New Hampshire in 1992, even though he finished eight points behind primary winner Paul Tsongas.

Tsongas was the sitting senator from neighboring Massachusetts in ’92. The big Democratic winner in Iowa that year was Tom Harkin, but because he was that state’s senator, the coverage back then wrote off the contest, and the victory provided no “bump” or momentum for the candidate.

This time around, Sanders is, of course, the senator from another New Hampshire neighbor, Vermont — a point the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been repeating for weeks. But go back to the start of this cycle and Sanders was anything but favored — even in neighboring New England contests — so a Sanders victory will likely not be dismissed quite as easily.

Still, the Clinton campaign hopes to bring Sanders’ margin down to where second place can be spun as a kind of victory moving forward. And to that end, the Clinton team appears to have ramped up the rhetoric. While the tone of the Democratic debates has been refreshingly positive, with both candidates, for the most part, avoiding invective, Clinton surrogates are now taking direct aim at Sanders.

And there is no bigger surrogate than the Big Dog himself.

At a rally Sunday, Hillary’s husband Bill went directly at Sanders, accusing him of everything from sexism to purity trolling.

“When you’re making a revolution you can’t be too careful with the facts,” said the former president. He then went on to accuse Sanders of using “hermetically sealed” logic, and alluded to a Democratic National Committee fundraiser that included participation from Sanders and donations from the Vermonter’s big-bank nemesis, Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs has contributed to a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton, and the investment bank’s CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, has publicly called Sanders “dangerous.”

Other Clinton allies have redoubled efforts to lock in women voters in advance of Tuesday’s vote.

“There’s a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women,” said Madeleine Albright, secretary of state to President Bill Clinton, and a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter. This is not the first time Albright has said this, but in this context, at Clinton rallies and in press appearances this week, the meaning is very specific.

Clinton is losing the female vote in New Hampshire, 50 percent to 46 percent, in the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. The gap is even more pronounced among younger women, leading iconic feminist Gloria Steinem to remark over the weekend that college-aged female Sanders supporters were just going “where the boys are.”

Steinem later apologized, but the comments from Team Hillary have already drawn rebuke from some New Hampshire women, especially those under 45. Younger women favor Sanders over Clinton by 29 points.

The change in tone is “unfortunate,” Sanders senior adviser Tad Devine said Monday on MSNBC. Devine said he was encouraged by the number of young people drawn to the Sanders message, and warned about sowing division.

“Whoever wins this thing will have to pull the party together,” he said.

Devine is likely correct on that front. For while a lower participation rate might help Clinton in the New Hampshire primary, come November, either Democrat will need a robust voter turnout to ascend to the White House.

Republicans punch tickets

For Trump, New Hampshire could signal whether the billionaire populist can truly turn popularity into votes. Trump has made no bones about his displeasure with the Iowa caucus system in the wake of his disappointing second-place finish behind fellow Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

That system required more time from voters, and more organization from the campaigns, than a straight primary. But New Hampshire will present different challenges to Trump and the other GOP candidates.

Cruz was never really favored to win New Hampshire, his message perhaps too ideological and religion-forward for the famously independent voters of the “Live Free or Die” state. So, out of Iowa, beyond Trump, eyes turned to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who was quickly anointed the GOP establishment’s answer to Trump and Cruz. But Rubio has actually never been a wholly beloved figure inside party circles, and after a much-maligned debate performance Saturday, the Floridian’s Iowa bump appears to be disappearing under the New Hampshire snow.

Rubio’s loss is seen as a gain for three other Republican hopefuls, all of whom have done time as governors. Jeb Bush was Florida’s chief executive until 2007, and was once thought to be the prohibitive favorite in this race — but that was before Trump seized the media spotlight and appeared to capitalize on anti-establishment rumblings in the electorate that instantly put Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, at a disadvantage.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been campaigning almost non-stop in New Hampshire for what seems like years. And it was Christie’s attacks on Rubio’s robotic responses in Saturday’s debate that sent the Senator reeling. But Christie’s prosecutorial style, while handy on the debate stage, has met with mixed reviews up north. As much time as he has spent with New Hampshire voters, Christie rarely wins the preference of more than 6 to 10 percent of them in opinion polls.

The third of “The Governors” (as they are now being called) is arguably enjoying a one of his best weeks of the campaign. Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich has held even more town halls in New Hampshire than Christie, and his tone is one of positivity and pragmatism — a marked difference not only from Christie, but from many in the GOP field who have spent most of the 2016 cycle arguing over who is the furthest to the right on hot-button issues such as immigration, national defense, abortion rights and torture.

Kasich has seen a mild surge in the polls in recent days. His support is now in double-digits, and in at least one recent survey, he places second behind Trump.

Perhaps the frontrunner is feeling some pressure. In the last few days, Trump — who had built his campaign on flashy events in large halls — has started doing more town- hall style meetings. These events, where a relative handful of voters get to question the candidate directly, have long been considered the staple of New Hampshire campaigning.

Will that be enough to win Tuesday? More appropriately, will it be enough to not lose — however that is eventually defined?

Campaign pundits like to wax about how many “tickets” there are out of New Hampshire. It is a cute way of saying that the primary’s results should go a good way toward winnowing the field. For the Democrats, that isn’t happening anytime soon. There are only two candidates that still need tickets, and they were both bought and paid for before the seats were cold in Iowa. But for Republicans, while three or four slots are all but assured, it looks like most of the rest of the field is expecting to fly standby.

At the end of the long campaign trail, however — like with the Democrats — the GOP nominee is going to have to unite his party. Whether the bruising primary will eventually result in a smiling team photo remains unresolved. But the bigger question always remains: Is there room in the picture for the voters?

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