For years, Iowa and New Hampshire have represented one thing for the Presidential nomination process. They’re the initial filter. Conservative Evangelical Iowa and moderate secular New Hampshire have always been ways for leading candidates to build their momentum and weaker candidates to see defeat and leave the field of play.
After tomorrow, at least one “Establishment” candidate should be out of the race. At this point, we don’t know who. It all comes down to how well they place based upon the expectations that were set for them. Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz are almost certain to stay in regardless. Carly Fiorina and Jim Gilmore (yes, he’s still running) will almost certainly depart the race barring a miracle. The rest are up in the air.
We’ll start with Ben Carson. He’s probably not going to leave the race, but his campaign has been so erratic that it’s not out of the realm of possibility. In fact, he might even get a boost if he’s able to somehow sneak into the top 5, but that’s very unlikely.
John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie all have high hopes pinned on New Hampshire. Christie is the most vulnerable because he’s lowest in the polls among the three and he has a state to run. If he doesn’t finish in the top four, he’s probably done. Kasich and Bush each need a top 3 finish. Bush may get pressured to leave even though he has the money if he shows poorly. Kasich may have to leave because he doesn’t have the money if he doesn’t finish strong. He might even be like Jon Huntsman in 2012 who finished a strong third in New Hampshire, then dropped out six days later.
South Carolina and Nevada are the preludes to the “SEC Primaries” that include Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas. It will be brutal for the moderate candidates, but if any of them can hold on until March 15, the bluer states start popping up and they’re winner-take-all at that point. They’ll have to unseat Marco Rubio in order to remain viable by that point, though.
The first four states have traditionally represented the “winnowing of the field,” but this year the strong field will actually be mostly winnowed earlier. South Carolina will be the first state where the real race begins.