With the Iowa caucuses behind us and New Hampshire's primary just days away, the primary races on both sides have suddenly become much more clear.
On the GOP side, the party establishment has started to consolidate around Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is rising in several New Hampshire polls. If Rubio continues his upward trend, the three establishment-friendly governors (current and former) in the race -- Chris Christie, John Kasich and Jeb Bush -- will have little chance. They're fighting back hard, as my colleague Chris Megerian chronicled.
On the Democratic side, the near-tie in Iowa was a big moral victory for Sen. Bernie Sanders. But moral victories don't win nominations.
Sanders will almost certainly score a real victory over Hillary Clinton on Tuesday in New Hampshire. But he still faces the same problem he has had since he began -- he has to win non-white voters to prevail in a minority-heavy Democratic Party. The first real test will come in Nevada on Feb. 20, and even as they fight it out in the New England snow, both sides are pouring resources into that next battleground.
Good afternoon, I'm David Lauter, Washington Bureau chief, welcome to the Friday edition of our Essential Politics newsletter, where we review the events of the past week on the campaign trail and single out for attention stories that provided particular insight and are worth a weekend read if you've missed them.
Trump's loss in Iowa answered some key questions about the race, as Michael Finnegan wrote. We now know that his lack of organization on the ground and failure to invest in the infrastructure of a modern political campaign really do make a difference, even for a celebrity. Unless he changes his approach, we should expect him to continue to underperform his standing in polls.
Finally, Decker analyzed two important elements of the GOP race: Even in New Hampshire, far from the Mexican border, immigration dominates the GOP debate. That's true despite the fact that only a little more than 10% of GOP voters say the issue is their top priority. Her analysis explains why. Decker also looked at the sometimes apocalyptic pitches that GOP candidates are making to angry and aggrieved voters.
Decker looked at how the ideological fight raging in the Democratic Party mirrors a similar battle that has pulled the GOP to the right over the last decade.
Lastly, does the campaign approach of Trump -- and Rubio, to a lesser extent -- mean the death of retail politics? A lot of New Hampshire political activists fear that could be the case, Mike Memoli found. The TV-heavy campaigns of those two GOP front-runners undermine the stock in trade that New Hampshire and Iowa can offer.