Since 1972, only six of 35 losing New Hampshire primary candidates who received 10+ percent of the vote dropped out of the race within the next two weeks
With three weeks until New Hampshire, it remains unclear how many GOPers will be left standing after the first in the nation primary.
Six Republicans have polled in the double-digits in at least two polls conducted in the Granite State this month: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich (pictured), Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie.
[Three of the remaining six Republicans reached double-digits in multiple polls conducted in 2015 but have failed to do so this year: Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina].
Could all six candidates win at least 10 percent of the vote on February 9th?
For starters, never in the history of the New Hampshire primary have as many as five candidates reached 10 percent in a Republican or Democratic primary – a mark, however, that is certainly within reach on the GOP side this cycle.
The Real Clear Politics polling average in the state finds four candidates currently averaging double-digit support (Trump, Kasich, Rubio, and Cruz) with Bush and Christie both north of eight percent.
Since the first New Hampshire primary in 1916, four candidates have reached 10 percent in six cycles:
● 1964 Republicans: Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (35.6 percent), Barry Goldwater (22.3 percent), Nelson Rockefeller (21.0 percent), and Richard Nixon (16.8 percent). [Note: Lodge and Nixon were write-in candidates].
● 1976 Democrats: Jimmy Carter (28.4 percent), Mo Udall (22.7 percent), Birch Bayh (15.2 percent), and Fred Harris (10.8 percent)
● 1988 Republicans: George H.W. Bush (37.7 percent), Bob Dole (28.5 percent), Jack Kemp (12.9 percent), and Pete du Pont (10.1 percent)
● 1992 Democrats: Paul Tsongas (33.2 percent), Bill Clinton (24.8 percent), Bob Kerrey (11.1 percent), and Tom Harkin (10.2 percent)
● 1996 Republicans: Pat Buchanan (27.3 percent), Bob Dole (26.2 percent), Lamar Alexander (22.6 percent), and Steve Forbes (12.2 percent)
● 2004 Democrats: John Kerry (38.4 percent), Howard Dean (26.3 percent), Wesley Clark (12.4 percent), and John Edwards (12.1 percent)
Overall, since 1972 there have been 35 losing Republican and Democratic candidates who received at least 10 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, but placed second or worse. Of those 35 candidates, just three dropped out within a week after New Hampshire and only three others did so within a fortnight of the primary.
In other words, approximately five in six candidates who registered double-digit support but fell short of victory lasted at least two more weeks on the campaign trail.
Republicans will hold two contests in the two weeks following the February 9th New Hampshire primary this cycle: the South Carolina primary on February 20th and the Nevada caucuses on February 23rd.
The candidate reaching double-digits in the Granite State primary with the quickest exit since 1972 was former Delaware Republican governor and U.S. Senator Pete du Pont in 1988.
As noted above, du Pont placed fourth with 10.1 percent that cycle behind George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, and Jack Kemp.
Du Pont withdrew from the race on February 18th – just two days after the primary.
The candidate with the biggest vote share to withdraw within two weeks was California Congressman Pete McCloskey in 1972.
McCloskey – who ran as a long-shot, anti-war candidate to Richard Nixon’s left – won 19.8 percent of the vote but lost to the president by a whopping 47.8 points.
As a result, the liberal Republican ended his campaign three days after the primary on March 10th.
The only other candidate to withdraw from the race inside of a week after receiving more than 10 percent of the vote was former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman in 2012.
After a third-place finish with 16.9 percent behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, the former Ambassador to China exited the GOP race six days later on January 16th.
The remaining White House hopefuls to receive double-digit support in New Hampshire and then end their campaigns less than two weeks after the primary were three third place finishers: Democrat Birch Bayh in 1976 (15.2 percent, nine days), Republican Howard Baker in 1980 (12.9 percent, eight days), and GOPer Steve Forbes in 2000 (12.7 percent, nine days).
No candidate who won more than 20 percent in New Hampshire was out of the race within two weeks, although one came close – Lamar Alexander in 1996.
The former Tennessee governor landed in third place with 22.6 percent of the vote behind Pat Buchanan and Bob Dole and withdrew from the race 15 days later on March 6th – one day after failing to win eight primaries and two caucuses.
Excluding six second-place New Hampshire finishers who went on to win their party’s nomination (Democrats George McGovern in 1972, Walter Mondale in 1984, Bill Clinton in 1992, and Barack Obama in 2008 and Republicans Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000) the average length of a campaign for losing candidates who won 10+ percent of the vote was 51 days after the primary.
A previous Smart Politics report examined how winning New Hampshire with only a plurality of the vote was not a prescription for success: just three of 18 plurality winners went on to win the presidency.
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