At the start of an intense primary season, New Hampshire makes a bold statement on the state of the country.
There were upsets and surprises across the board for both Republican and Democratic parties during last night’s New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders earned a landslide victory over Hillary Clinton. For the Republicans, Donald Trump emerged victorious with a wide lead over the rest of the pack.
Sanders had held a solid lead in New Hampshire as early as September, back when he was still considered a fringe candidate. Between now and then, the numbers fluxuated, with Sanders’ lead expanding and contracting anywhere from a 30-point lead to a mere 7-point difference. In the days leading up to the contest, the Clinton campaign made sure to characterize any potential Sanders victory as nothing more than home court advantage.
What the Clinton team failed to mention is that while Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont does indeed neighbor New Hampshire, New York isn’t all that far off either. Additionally, New Hampshire once proved very winnable for Clinton during the 2008 primary election against Barack Obama. Pundits, along with the Sanders team itself, remained skeptical of the dismissal and the results on Tuesday night have shown why.
Bernie Sanders won with a 21-point lead over Hillary Clinton, gaining 60% of the vote compared to her 39%. Defying expectations, Sanders not only performed strongly among individuals under 30, but even managed to gather support among demographics traditionally aligned with Clinton, particularly women and minorities. In stunning contrast to 2008, Bernie Sanders also managed to create victories from Barack Obama’s losses, finding success in territories that had previously come out in support of Hillary Clinton. (Read more about the voter breakdown on both sides here.)
On the Republican side, months of steady poll numbers finally yielded a solid victory for Donald Trump. However, less expected was a surprising 2nd place finish for Ohio governor John Kasich. Although Rubio did not find himself among the top three finishers (as predicted earlier), by all counts he managed to carve out a 5th place finish in a near tie with Jeb Bush for 4th. In contrast to Sanders’ victory, Trump won big among voters of several major demographics — men, women, young, old.
The choice of two such extreme candidates as major party winners indicates a sharp shift in ideological thinking. I’ve written before on the similarities between Trump and Sanders, and interestingly enough, these similarities are what spoke to the people of New Hampshire. In his victory speech, Trump called attention to his lack of outside campaign funding as Sanders has done for his own campaign many times. Both candidates have been celebrated for their straightforward, no-nonsense styles of speaking. Should these two candidates find themselves pitted against each other in a November general election, the results could be closer than we think.
With regard to the nomination, as pointed out by MSNBC — historically, no Republican presidential candidate has ever not won either New Hampshire or Iowa and succeeded in winning the nomination. Therefore, statisically speaking, establishment candidates like John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and the hopeful Marco Rubio are out of the running due to their recent losses. However, if we have learned anything from this tumultuious primary season it’s that surprises and upsets are right around every corner.
For the Democrats, despite Sanders’ collossal win over Hillary Clinton, it’s possible that due to DNC rules concerning “superdelegates,” Clinton could still gain a win from New Hampshire. Clinton currently leads Sanders 394 to 44 toward the necessary total of 2382 delegates needed to win the Democratic party nomination. Upcoming contests in South Carolina and the following Super Tuesday states will challenge Sanders’ recent momentum, and will go a long way toward determining the next Democratic nominee.
It’s easy to be tempted to dismiss each of these victories as anomalous blips in an already unpredictable campaign season, but the results say otherwise. Regardless, the wide margins of victory indicate perhaps unwelcome changes of thinking along party lines and a long road to November.