It was a big night for those calling for change in the political establishment, as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won convincing victories in the New Hampshire Primary, with each presenting a unique challenge to their party’s respective leadership.
Let’s take a quick look at the candidates, how they did in the Granite State, and where we go from here:
Bernie Sanders – The Vermont Senator was certainly the favorite, but to win by over 20 points was more than many had expected. Sanders should now get some momentum both in national polls, and in upcoming states, and that can generate even more interest. He has raised enough money to start buying advertising time in future states, and can definitely count on college and younger voters flocking to his side. But can he win? My answer would be – why not? Sanders will meet with Rev. Al Sharpton in New York on Wednesday morning.
Hillary Clinton – New Hampshire had been a favorite of the Clintons, whether Bill’s “Comeback Kid” second place finish in 1992, or Hillary’s upset win over Barack Obama in 2008. But this time it was not to be. It was painfully obvious from interviews with voters here in New Hampshire that many supporters of Sanders wanted no part of Clinton, no part of her baggage from the past. In her concession speech, Clinton vowed to move on to the other 48 states in this fight – and while she may still prevail – this defeat is a reminder that her campaign is not running on all cylinders within the Democratic Party.
Donald Trump – A week after under-performing in the Iowa Caucus, Donald Trump outperformed his polls in New Hampshire, winning a big victory in the Granite State. Trump changed tactics after his loss in Iowa, incorporating more small events, doing the type of retail politics that he had steadfastly avoided for months in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Trump now moves on to South Carolina, where he has led in the polls for months, though Ted Cruz has certainly picked up some steam in the Palmetto State of late. It’s not hard to imagine a repeat victory in South Carolina on February 20.
Ted Cruz – The only way this week could have worked out better for Ted Cruz would have been if he could have finished second to Trump in New Hampshire. Still, third was a great finish for the Iowa Caucus winner, though his 11.5 percent share of the vote seemed a little on the low side. Cruz can now shift his operation to South Carolina, where his more conservative brand of politics will be welcomed by many with open arms. With Bush/Rubio/Kasich fighting each other, one wonders if Cruz will directly engage Trump, or watch the establishment candidates fight each other.
Marco Rubio – It was a brutal night for Rubio, as he directly took the blame for his disappointing fifth place finish. “Our disappointment tonight is not on you, it’s on me,” Rubio told his supporters in New Hampshire. “I did not do well on Saturday night — listen to this: that will never happen again.” Rubio will not have much time to press the re-start button, as Republicans have another debate on Saturday night, in Greenville, South Carolina – though it looks like Chris Christie won’t be there for that encounter. While Rubio is still in the conversation now, anything worse than third place in South Carolina could send his campaign sideways.
John Kasich – I had been saying in recent days that Kasich seemed to be in a good spot, as he zoomed into second place in New Hampshire, though it was well behind Donald Trump. Kasich certainly benefited from his extensive focus on the Granite State, as he did over 100 town hall meetings. But there is no time to do that in coming days in South Carolina, where Kasich is certain to face attacks as well from Jeb Bush. Kasich’s brand of Republican politics may play okay in New Hampshire, but it represents the sort of thing that Cruz and Trump are crying out against: bipartisan deal making. The next ten days will be a test for the Ohio Governor.
Jeb Bush – Bush did what he had to do in New Hampshire, and that was to finish ahead of Marco Rubio. But fourth place doesn’t pay you money at the race track (except in France) as Bush will need to do better in South Carolina. Many expect Bush and his Super PAC to spend big against Rubio and Kasich in the Palmetto State, as Bush still hopes to clear the field so he can get a direct shot at Donald Trump. Bush has been turning up the rhetoric against Trump in recent days, and I would see no reason to think that will end any time soon – but he will have to go after Rubio as well.
Chris Christie – Christie’s bid for the Republican nomination may be over soon, as the New Jersey Governor will head home to discuss the future of his presidential bid with his family, instead of going directly to South Carolina. Christie’s debate attack on Marco Rubio may have succeeded in derailing Rubio, but it did not give Christie enough of a boost to get him into the top five in New Hampshire.
Ben Carson – Carson left New Hampshire before the votes were even counted, as his campaign has taken on the air of a part-time endeavor. Carson did little public campaign work in the last few days in the Granite State, as he received only 2.3 percent of the vote. While Carson is going on to South Carolina, he is a long shot in the Republican race, as he continues to fall further and further from the center stage of the GOP.
Carly Fiorina – Fiorina actually beat Carson in New Hampshire, winning just over 4 percent of the vote, but she also has not really been involved in the basics of the Republican race in some time. Like Carson, Fiorina will go on with her campaign. “We are going to keep going,” she told her supporters here in New Hampshire.