Hillary Clinton has an unlikely supporter rooting for her to win Iowa: Republican presidential candidate John Kasich.
OK, before dismissing this incongruity as irrelevant inside baseball, hear the political logic.
Independents make up more than 40 percent of New Hampshire’s electorate and are expected to comprise over a third of primary voters there on Feb. 9. They can decide on election day which primary to vote in.
Granite State independents historically have been motivated less by ideology than by the persona and character of the candidates.
In surveys, Sanders, the senator from neighboring Vermont, is more popular with independent New Hampshire voters than Hillary Clinton. He’s running ahead of her now; getting a healthy chunk of the independent vote might assure a substantial victory. The two are locked in a tight battle in Iowa.
But Kasich, who isn’t trying to compete in Iowa, has focused heavily on New Hampshire independents, especially women, both in advertising and campaign appearances.
There is a parallel to the current contest between these two unlikely protagonists. In 2000, the New Hampshire primaries were between George W. Bush and John McCain on the Republican side with Al Gore pitted against Bill Bradley on the Democratic ballot. Both McCain and Bradley heavily courted New Hampshire independents.
In the end, large numbers of independents voted in the Republican primary for McCain, securing his victory there. Bradley, without sufficient independent support, narrowly lost.