Despite spending relatively little money and hardly campaigning in the state at all, Donald Trump coasted to a win, crushing the rest of the field with a rare 20-point margin of victory in the New Hampshire primary. On the other side of the aisle, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders crushed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a similar margin. What does this tell voters?
Aside from the fact that the majority of the good people of New Hampshire, a state which, according to Gallop, is the least religious and most alcoholic in America, appear to be in favor of populist candidates with no clear plan and no articulated policy beyond “Things are bad, it’s not your fault and we’re going to punish others.” For Trump, the others are immigrants. For Sanders, the others are big bankers. The rheotoric is basically the same.
For the Democrats, this means that their primary fight will now drag on significantly longer than anticipated. Bernie Sanders, initially viewed as the perfect foil for Hillary to crush on her way to a quick and painless nomination victory, has emerged as the voice of a new generation of young, super-liberal and very angry Democratic voters to whom Bill and Hillary’s trademark centrism and pragmatism is seen not as a detriment rather than a benefit.
While Hillary struggles to generate excitement about her pragmatic approach to politics, Bernie promises to get voters incredibility excited with incredible promises, regardless of whether or not those promises are feasible. The problem of excitement with Hillary is compounded by her perceived dishonesty and disingenuous approach to politics. Indeed, one of the most shocking statistics from the New Hampshire exit polls was that over 90 percent of Democratic voters who said that honesty in politicians was important to them voted for Bernie.
Of course, Hillary and her campaign insist the Bernie victory will be his high-water mark.
However, famed black activist and acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates recent endorsement of Bernie — as well as speculation that the Reverend Al Sharpton may endorse Sanders — may complicate the Clinton campaign’s hopes.
Meanwhile, for the Republicans, New Hampshire continued to winnow the field. Fiorina and Christie withdrew yesterday and, barring a shocking comeback in South Carolina, Ben Carson is likely on his way out as well. Marco Rubio was dealt a stunning blow, falling from a projected second- place finish to fifth, largely due to a disastrous debate moment just days before the primary opened, while his primary rival Jeb Bush came in fourth, Ted Cruz came in third and John Kasich notched second place.
Aside from Trump, the other likely beneficiary of this result in New Hampshire is Ted Cruz. The man Cruz’s campaign perceived as the greatest threat, Rubio, was wounded — perhaps mortally — by this result. And if the Floridian cannot win South Carolina, he may be forced to drop from the race. As the race heads south, Cruz should continue to win states such as Mississippi, Kentucky and his native Texas where evangelical voters are clustered and unenthused about The Donald. Over in the so-called establishment, our moderate- lane Republican continues to be split between Kasich, Bush and maybe Rubio.
Regardless, none of them pose an immediate threat to Cruz now, and their continued infighting will give the Texan time to continue to consolidate the evangelical and libertarian lanes of the party. Some may say Kasich scored a victory by finishing second, but that is a hollow victory, as his campaign is the most lacking of those that remain in both money and organization outside of New Hampshire.
This is the bottom line out of New Hampshire: For the Republicans, Trump and Cruz appear to be in a dominant positions, while Clinton and Sanders are bracing for what looks to be a brutal and grueling primary battle.