New Hampshire Awaits……

Iowa will soon speak! No longer in days, but hours.

The outcome could have more effect in New Hampshire this year than most others, given this strange political year. Usually New Hampshire has to correct Iowa’s penchant for nutty right-wingers who attend more than their fair share of tent revivals and the requisite lying of hands and speaking in tongues (see Rick Santorum 2012, Mike Huckabee 2008).

But this year Iowa’s evangelical signal could reverberate more loudly through the Granite State. The conventional wisdom is that if Donald Trump wins Iowa, it will send a strong national signal that even evangelical voters are so angry with Washington, they are prepared to remove the strict morality clause from their hiring policy.

Trump’s way ahead in New Hampshire, a place with far more non-evangelicals than true believers and many predict, with Iowa and New Hampshire wins, he could run the table. Troubling, but true.

If Cruz cedes Iowa to Trump, white smoke signals are sent well beyond The Granite State to places like South Carolina and the March 1st Southern primary contests where in some parts, snake tossing still matters. But by then, Trump will have been absolved of his sins with the moral majority of the GOP, (some of it’s toughest customers). Cruz would then be banished, shunned by Christian conservatives and sent back to the desert that is Washington where according to “The Donald” -not even his dog likes him.

Iowa could surprise. While the state seems built for Cruz and his organization, Trump seems to have the momentum. But there are a couple of other candidates Iowan’s are still pondering or as they might say, “praying over.”

Look for Rand Paul to do better than anyone thinks. His ground game is impressive and many Iowa Republicans are still true believers in his father’s brand of “spaceship Libertarianism.”

Ben Carson, assuming he can stay awake until Monday, is also Iowa’s kind of social conservative and while his precipitous drop in the polls suggest he is all but dead, well most Iowan’s know, that’s what they said about Lazarus as well.

But the race for third is what intrigues me. Can Marco Rubio pull it off? If so he sails into New Hampshire with the wind at his back, hoping to be the establishments alternative to Trump. Recent polls suggest Cruz, Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie are for now at least, are virtually locked in a statistical four-way tie for second here.

Former New Hampshire Governor John H. Sununu often famously has said: “Iowa picks corn, New Hampshire picks presidents!” If that’s the case than New Hampshire is more important than ever, in this most unconventional political year. Voters here can validate Iowa’s pick(s) or choose once again to correct them.

Either way the winnowing will continue, there is likely to be blood in the snow and something none of us can predict may come to pass: Bernie Sanders could be the Democratic nominee for President! Now that’s something we should all be praying about!

(Patrick Griffin is a New Hampshire resident and GOP strategist. He is managing partner of Purple Strategies New England.)

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