Primaries: Clinton, Sanders deadlocked in New Hampshire, Trump steams ahead

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are locked neck and neck on the Democratic side, Donald Trump is crushing the field with money and bluster ahead of the first presidential nominating contests as America begins its 7 month long quest to decide 2 final candidates who will fight the 2016 US elections.

After months of volatile campaigning, it's the real thing now / Reuters

After months of volatile campaigning, it's the real thing now / Reuters

Sanders, a hard-left Democrat promising sweeping reforms in banking and free college for Americans, is rising at phenomenal speed in poll numbers against Clinton.

Online betting markets, where people put real money to predict political outcomes, are all juiced up ahead of the February kick off.
To this question, “Will primary polling give Sanders at least 30 %”, the Senator is chugging along at 93 cents positive to 7 cents in the negative. "Who will win the NH primary?" is answered by 73 cents for Bernie Sanders against 27 cents for Hillary Clinton on PredictIt.

Up until now, Democratic front-runner Clinton has surged to double-digit leads over Sanders in almost every national poll of Democratic primary voters, with a substantial chunk of gains coming from nonwhite voters - according to a late December Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

With less than 3 weeks to go before New Hampshire, Clinton and Sanders are separated by a wafer thin 3% margin in this state, while Trump is steaming ahead.

“Drop out? Me? No, I’m going all the way,” says the billionaire who says he needs neither lobbies nor outisde funding for his volatile campaign.

With less than 3 weeks to go for the primary race to begin, US media is still explaining how this works, using popular idioms like football playoffs to make sense of a selection system that is shrouded by backroom influence, not so much by a representative voter sample.

US primaries and caucuses — what does that mean in plain English?

For reporters and lobbies travelling with US presidential hopefuls, it’s a 7 month long barbecue orgy that runs March to September before voters even know what their choices really are. 1 February is the Iowa caucus, 9 Feb is the New Hampshire primary.

For voters old and new, primaries and caucuses have different rules statewide. The imagery of what President Obama said while pardoning a turkey before Thanksgiving explains it best: “a lot of turkeys are trying to get into the White House.” America's first black president who has come through this wringer twice will take a ringside seat until the dust settles - all endorsements only after the primaries, he has decided.

And a lot more meat will start getting cooked beginning with Iowa and New Hampshire, the first of the caucuses and primaries begin February. Early predictions are that independents in New Hampshire will have an outsize role in shaping this primary and the contest beyond.

US primaries attract a scant proportion of eligible voters -- often under 20% of those eligible, which clears the field for powerful party elders and lobbies to pull disproportionate weight. An example of how lopsided it can get is this: Only 11 per cent of workers are union members but organised labour wields tremendous influence on Democratic primaries. In Republican primaries, relatively small groups like the Club for Growth, which campaigns for smaller government, need to sway only a small number of people to pull off huge wins.

Each of the states has either a primary or a caucus — think of a primary as an election run separately by the Democratic side, separately by the Republican side to decide who goes to the Convention the summer before the US presidential election.

The undecided New Hampshire voter

There are few titles in American democracy as privileged as “undeclared New Hampshire voter,” says The New York Times.

Four in 10 New Hampshire voters are independent - officially called 'undeclared', who are likely to muscle in their unusual power in a volatile election season. In New Hampshire, these independents who represent a greater voter share than either party can claim as their own, are allowed to participate in either primary. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are counting on these free agents' support to win the state.

Today, it is possible to believe that Trump -- a loose cannon who has astonished his own party with his poll numbers, will "lead until he doesn't".

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Updated Date: Jan 12, 2016 17:30:04 IST

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