Donald Trump went to New Hampshire on Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after his disappointing second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. Although Trump landed in the Granite State amid questions about his organization and its abilities, one thing was immediately clear: His Iowa loss has done little to dim the level of interest in his candidacy.
Here's what Trump's rally in Milford looked like:
— Mark Halperin (@MarkHalperin) February 3, 2016
Now, I have spent a fair amount of time and words in this space over the past few months trying to understand the correlation (or lack thereof) between big crowds and actual votes.
Trump's second-place showing in Iowa on Monday was a proof point for the big-crowd deniers. Trump regularly drew thousands of people to rallies in Iowa, far more than any of his Republican rivals, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Looking only at rally sizes, you would have concluded that Trump would cruise to a win. He didn't.
(Devil's advocate: No, Trump didn't win. But he did get 45,427 votes — the second most ever received by a Republican presidential candidate.)
Given all of that, the crowd shot above could mean one of two things:
1. Trump's loss in Iowa has done nothing to impact excitement and energy for him in New Hampshire, where polling has shown him to be the clear front-runner for months.
2. Yes, Trump can draw big crowds, but he lacks the organizational heft to translate those crowds into actual votes. Nice images, yes. But not indicative of much.
I'm not sure where I come down on that debate. If Trump wins New Hampshire going away, I think there's an argument to be made that his Iowa organization's acknowledged weakness was more exception than rule. If Trump wins New Hampshire very narrowly (or even loses), then it will be indisputable that although, yes, he knows how to draw a crowd, interest in going to see Trump isn't the same thing as a desire to vote for him.