According to Barbour and Wright, what is considered “winning” in primary elections?
A. having an absolute majority of votes in every primary
B. beating expectations and gathering momentum, even if the candidate did not come in first in the primary or caucus
C. winning only the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, but no other primaries
D. winning all primaries except the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, because these contests have such little influence on the race
E. taking first place in every primary or caucus on a particular day
You might think that Option E would be the right answer because it fits the technical definition of winning. Of course, the candidate who takes first place in a primary or caucus is the one who has technically won that primary. However, the best answer to this question is Option B.
The idea here is that presidential primaries (particularly early on) are all about expectations. People (or at least the media and donors) want to see who will do better than expected and who will do worse. They will feel that the former have momentum while the latter are losing it.
For example, let us say that Ben Carson has 22% support in the polls going into Iowa and Donald Trump has 18%. Meanwhile, John Kasich has 5%. Let us then imagine that, in the voting, Carson wins with 21%, Trump gets 18%, and Kasich is in 4th, but gets 15% of the vote. The story the next day is likely to be how well Kasich did. Of the three, he is the one who exceeded expectations and did so by a large amount. This is why Option B is the best answer.