Bernie Sanders won a commanding victory over Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, and Donald Trump also scored a big win in a triumph of two candidates who have seized on Americans’ anger at the Washington political establishment.
Both outcomes would have been nearly unthinkable not long ago. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, beat a former secretary of state and first lady once seen as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee. While Clinton remains the favorite in the national race for the Democratic nomination, the win by the Vermont senator could be a springboard into a competitive, drawn-out primary campaign.
For Trump, the brash real estate magnate and television personality who has never run for public office, the win was an important rebound after his loss to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in last week’s Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest. Trump has led national polls for months and the New Hampshire victory reinforces his position as front-runner, proving he can win votes, and giving credibility to his upstart populist candidacy.
For some Republican leaders, back-to-back victories by Trump and Cruz, an uncompromising conservative, add urgency to the need to coalesce around a more mainstream candidate to challenge them through the primaries. However, Tuesday’s vote did little to clarify who that candidate might be.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished second after devoting almost all of his campaign resources to New Hampshire, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush battled for third, along with Cruz. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also staked his candidacy on New Hampshire, lagged behind the pack.
Rubio had appeared to be breaking away after a stronger-than-expected third-place showing in Iowa, but he stumbled in Saturday’s Republican debate under intense pressure from Christie.
At stake Tuesday were less than 1 per cent of the delegates who, at party national conventions in July, will choose nominees to succeed President Barack Obama. But a strong showing in New Hampshire can give a candidate momentum ahead of state contests in coming weeks, including the March 1 “Super Tuesday, when 11 states vote.
Nearly half of voters in the Republican primary made up their mind in the past week, according to early exit polls conducted by Edison Research for the Associated Press and the television networks. Republican voters were more negative about their politicians than Democrats, with about half of Republican voters saying they felt betrayed by party officials.
In a sign of Trump’s impact on the race, two-thirds of Republican voters said they support a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., a position the billionaire outlined last year amid rising fears of terrorism emanating from the Middle East.
Early exit polls showed Trump drew support from voters looking for an outsider and from those who made up their minds a while ago.
Among Democrats, Sanders, who narrowly lost in Iowa, had maintained a sizeable advantage over Clinton in New Hampshire for weeks. He has appealed to liberal Democrats who believe Obama hasn’t done enough to address the nation’s disparity in wealth.