Every week, NHJournal has asked the Granite State Guru to peer into the mystical stone that fell from the face of the Old Man in the Mountain and foretell the future of the First in the Nation presidential primary.
(OK, we actually ask a dozen or so political professionals, pundits, and professors to share their off-the-record opinions, and then we aggregate the response — but close enough.)
For weeks, the Guru has been of two minds, divided over whether Donald Trump had the primary locked up or if a challenger could arise and reveal the former president’s political weakness in New Hampshire.
Every Guru save one predicted Trump will break 50 percent, and only half believe Nikki Haley will get at least 40 percent of the vote.
“Everything I read says the Haley voters aren’t enthusiastic,” one political insider said. “If they don’t care about being a Republican and they don’t think their vote matters, why go out of their way on Tuesday to vote in a Republican primary?”
The Granite State Guru’s final FITN prediction:
- Trump: 55 percent
- Haley: 40 percent
- Other: 5 percent
As for the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s push to rescue President Joe Biden from his decision to skip the New Hampshire primary, the Granite State Guru overwhelmingly predicts Biden will break 60 percent thanks to the write-in campaign. However, the Guru also sees U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips breaking the 20 percent mark.
“Come November, Biden may regret his snub,” said longtime New Hampshire politico Tom Rath.
Those predictions largely follow conventional wisdom. But one area where the Guru breaks with the current orthodoxy is turnout. While Secretary of State David Scanlan is predicting 322,000 votes in the Republican primary, and Gov. Chris Sununu is saying 350,000 is more likely, the Guru predicts actual turnout will be lower.
Most of the predictions were below Scanlan’s number, and about half of the participants said turnout wouldn’t break 300,000.
“Candidates are dropping out,” one Guru noted. “Sure, some [Chris] Christie voters will likely go to Haley, but some will stay home. The same with Vivek [Ramaswamy] and DeSantis.”
And the candidates who’ve dropped out appear to be doing so because of Trump’s perceived domination of the race — another contributor to lower turnout.
“Look at the news leading up to the primary. How does that encourage more people to come out? It’s more of a final step in a coronation than a primary.”
On the flip side, the massive amount of mail and media Haley and her campaign allies have been pumping out could pump up turnout. But daily headlines about Trump’s polls rising and his political opponents surrendering feed the narrative that the race is already over.
The Guru was also asked about the future of the First in the Nation primary. With Democrats trying to kill it, and a GOP race that doesn’t feel competitive, is the Granite State in danger of losing its place at the front of the line? The Guru’s prediction: It’s holding its own, but it’s in more danger than ever.
“The FITN lives and thrives for another cycle,” Rath said.
Asked to predict “the biggest surprise of Tuesday morning,” the Guru had little to offer.
“The GOP Establishment thought if they could get Trump one-on-one, he would lose,” one strategist said. “Instead, he forced a one-on-one to win.”
Another GOP consultant said the only surprise of Tuesday morning will be this: “Nikki Haley didn’t drop out.”