WTF Happened in the New Hampshire Primary, Explained
Was there any good news for Clinton?
It’s hard to sugarcoat this. New Hampshire was a shellacking. Clinton was expected to lose by a good margin — meaning she might have claimed, if not victory, at least momentum by closing the gap. And she had a history of winning over late-deciding voters in New Hampshire: In 2008, Granite Staters decided she was more than “likeable enough” — to borrow Barack Obama’s unfortunate phrase — and delivered Clinton a stunning comeback victory.
But on Tuesday night, Clinton did not chip into Sanders’ lead, and instead lost by nearly 50,000 votes. Worse, the exit polls underscored her greatest political vulnerability: Those seeking an honest and trustworthy candidate favored Sanders 91-5.
No silver lining — at all?
There are few moral victories in politics, but Clinton did receive nearly as many votes as Trump in New Hampshire. Clinton also delivered a strong concession speech — mixing strength with new humility. She turned the page on a tough night by promising a spirited fight on behalf of her fellow underdogs.
What does is mean, politically?
Clinton needs a victory, and quick. It’s hard to run as the more electable candidate if you keep losing to the other guy.
But the next Democratic contest — Nevada, on February 20 — could be trouble. It’s a caucus state, where grassroots energy matters. Nevada is far more diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire, but caucus participation is historically whiter than the population at large — perhaps favoring Sanders. Clinton has been leading in Nevada, but Sanders’ new momentum could turn the Silver State a tossup. The Clinton camp is already lowering expectations.
This sets up the South Carolina primary, on February 27, as a pivotal contest. Clinton has been leading there by more than 30 points on the strength of African American support. Will Clinton’s “firewall” hold? Can Sanders sell his democratic socialist platform to a more diverse electorate?
It’s gonna be fun to find out.
Anything else I need to know?
Tuesday was — it should not be overlooked — a historic night: Sanders became the first Jewish candidate to ever win a presidential primary.
Trump won. Give it to me straight: How bad is this?
Not good. One statistic tells the story of the Trump victory: 64 percent of GOP voters told exit pollsters they support the billionaire’s bigoted proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Overall, Trump won going away. He more than doubled the votes of his nearest competitor. And he won every meaningful demographic, according to the exit poll. Trump did best among voters with no college degree and those earning under $50,000. But he also won easily among educated voters and those making $200,000. Remarkably, Trump’s support was nearly identical among self-described “moderate,” “somewhat conservative” and “very conservative” voters.
Unlike in the Iowa caucus, where his lack of a sophisticated ground game hurt him badly, Trump turned out voters in the New Hampshire primary in line with his poll numbers — suggesting that, going forward, Trump can convert his star power into convention delegates.
Tuesday night left little doubt: Donald Trump is, truly, the Republican frontrunner.