New Hampshire Heads Out to Cast Its Vote

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 9.08.50 AMMAGGIE HABERMAN

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Good Tuesday morning. The political terrain in New Hampshire is much different than in Iowa, where the caucuses brought late intrigue, accusations and a surprise third-place surge. The stakes, however, are the same, and the state is sure to offer its own surprises.

New Hampshire primaries can be unpredictable, particularly in an election when the occupant in the White House is a lame duck. With independents able to vote in either party, predicting the universe of likely voters is tricky.

So the polls heading into Tuesday’s vote are a window, but an opaque one. Donald J. Trump seems poised for a win if the polls are to be believed, but by what margin remains to be seen. Another question is whether his last-minute use of an expletive to describe Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, first used by a woman in the crowd at Mr. Trump’s final rally on Monday, will sink in with voters.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont also seems poised for a win over Hillary Clinton, but again, by what margin is the main question. Mrs. Clinton had seemed to have moved beyond attacking Mr. Sanders, until she used opposition research to say he takes money from big banks, citing a fund-raiser with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Mrs. Clinton denied a report about her examining a staff shake-up, but she has struggled to define the central message of her candidacy.

The real question on the Republican side is who comes in second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. After that, the field will winnow.

What is certain is that the races are far from over. The Democratic primary had once seemed likely to wrap up after New Hampshire, but it is now almost certain to drag on for many weeks. Mr. Trump may not be the juggernaut he appeared to be in December, having lost Iowa, but if he wins New Hampshire, he will be very much in the quest for the nomination.

Months of town-hall-style meetings, rallies and retail stops finally wind down in New Hampshire on Tuesday. From here, the race will head to Nevada and South Carolina. But for now, we wait for the votes to be cast.