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Eye On Candidates
January 5, 2016

Paths to Victory for 2016 Contenders

With less than a month until the Iowa caucuses kick off the voting portion of the nomination process, every remaining candidate for president is plotting his or her path to the White House. For some those paths are more plausible than others, as an excellent article in Bloomberg Politics demonstrates this morning. Here are a few key excerpts:

What the 2016 Presidential Candidates Must Do to Win

Donald Trump

HOW TO WIN: Do well in Iowa, win New Hampshire, start racking up delegates and force rivals to drop out…

HOW TO LOSE: Fail to turn out supporters at the polls, lose New Hampshire, and see his support vaporize

While Trump continues to tower over the field, many of his admirers aren't typical voters. While one study suggests they might turn out in bigger numbers than polls indicate, it's impossible to know for sure whether they will, and Trump is sufficiently concerned to have added a new line to his stump speeches, urging audiences to vote….

Marco Rubio

HOW TO WIN: Exceed expectations in New Hampshire, unify the establishment and siphon conservatives from Cruz and Trump

Running third nationally and polling behind in early states, Rubio's path to the nomination is murky. His prospects may be made or broken in New Hampshire—if he wins there, he becomes the establishment favorite; if he places a strong second behind Trump, it could create pressure for competitors for the center-right vote like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich to clear the lane. From there Rubio needs to cut into conservative support for Trump and/or Cruz, which is plausible given his deeply conservative voting record and high favorable ratings with GOP voters.

HOW TO LOSE: Finish behind an establishment candidate in New Hampshire, fail to win South Carolina or Nevada and fade away…

Hillary Clinton

HOW TO WIN: Don't screw up

For Clinton, the name of the game is to keep it slow and steady and avoid unforced errors. She's leading by about 20 points nationally. She's also dominating the race for super delegates, endorsements, and fundraising and is the only candidate with crossover appeal to the various factions and interest groups within the Democratic Party. She's arguably the strongest candidate in the modern primary era, and the overwhelming favorite for the nomination.

HOW TO LOSE: Get crushed in both Iowa and New Hampshire, commit a variety of blunders and hemorrhage support.

Clinton can survive a loss in New Hampshire and perhaps also Iowa as they are both predominantly white and more liberal primary electorates that favor rival Bernie Sanders. The primaries then move to South Carolina and Nevada. Both states have larger and more diverse Democratic electorates (read: blacks and Hispanics) which overwhelmingly favor Clinton. But if she's decisively routed early, the wave of negative coverage and expectations shift could spell danger.

The whole piece is well worth reading, at it gives a fairly clear assessment of what each candidate must do in order to win their party’s nomination. You can read the full article here: What the 2016 Presidential Candidates Must Do to Win.