I think the biggest story coming out of the New Hampshire primary is that President Biden absolutely kicked butt while running as a write-in. That’s not easy to do, and if Dean “Who?” Phillips had turned in a showing that was even mildly respectable, it’s all the media would be talking about. Since New Hampshire is obviously not going to give up its first-in-the-nation primary, the Democrats might want to rethink their attempts to make it go away.
Beyond that, what can anyone say? It looks like Donald Trump beat Nikki Haley by about 11 points in what just about every political observer believes will be her best state. It’s only going to get worse from here. No one would be surprised if she endorses Trump at Mar-a-Lago by Friday, assuming that can be scheduled around his multiple court appearances.
For many years I had a gig as a weekly columnist for The Guardian and, later, for GBH News. My practice on mornings like this was to round-up morning-after commentary and try to make sense out of it. I am so glad I don’t have to do that this time beyond a few brief observations here. I’ll confess that I didn’t even pay attention to the Iowa caucuses, and only watched a bit of cable news Tuesday night. I should add that I asked my graduate students to come in this afternoon with an example of a story from New Hampshire that they think is illuminating in some way, which I guess makes me a sadist.
One pre-New Hampshire story I want to call your attention to is this article in The New York Times by Michael C. Bender and Nicholas Nehamas. It’s labeled “Political Memo,” which is supposed to signal the reader that the piece combines reporting, analysis and opinion. The headline itself is remarkable (“The Emasculation of Ron DeSantis by the Bully Donald Trump”), but the lead is even more noteworthy:
Donald J. Trump plumbed new depths of degradation in his savage takedown of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a yearlong campaign of emasculation and humiliation that helped force one of the party’s rising stars out of the presidential race after just one contest and left him to pick up the pieces of his political future.
Wow. I often have problems with the way the Times both-sides its day-to-day political coverage, but this is some vivid writing in the service of truth-telling. Here’s a free link, so please read the whole thing. As Josh Marshall wrote at Talking Points Memo, “it suggested to me at least some shift in dropping the pretense of conventional news coverage for conventional politics and approaching the quite unconventional story of what is really on its own visceral and physical terms.”
It also represented a break from the “two flawed candidates” narrative that we’re going to hear over and over (and over) for the next 10 months — as if the contest between Biden and Trump didn’t offer the starkest choice since 1860.