New Hampshire voters call for upheaval in Washington
The New Hampshire primary exposed a very deep undercurrent of anger running through the American populace. On the GOP side, businessman Donald Trump pulled out a victory in which he drew more than twice as many votes as his nearest competition, Ohio Governor John Kasich. On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders (I–VT) beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by over 20 points. While both candidates had been leading the polls for quite some time, both managed to beat lofty expectations and, with one of the longest lulls in the primary schedule upon us, create a feeling of disarray in the election.
In the GOP, Trump started out as a seemingly factional candidate with little hope of sustaining his momentum. The Huffington Post put him in the entertainment section, and party elites never took him very seriously, and still don’t. There were very few attack ads run in either Iowa or New Hampshire leading up to the contests in those two states. However, an overloaded GOP field allows Trump’s loyal followers — a relatively small faction of the GOP — to override the overwhelming negative sentiment surrounding Trump within the Republican Party.
The Republicans would do much better to take Trump seriously. After the Republicans were surprised by their loss in the 2012 election, they found that social conservatism — and immigration policy in particular — were keeping “natural conservatives” away from their party. They hoped to leave social conservatism behind, but this caused a revolt within the party and caused very few people to shift toward the Republicans. Republicans may have learned a lot about the opposition, but failed to realize that there are few people within their party who actually agree with their policy platform. Rather, these are people who culturally identify with the conservative cause. They felt completely betrayed when the Republicans abandoned them on many social issues, immigration in particular. This anger has led to Trump basically controlling the narrative of the GOP, which he has been doing for months now.
However, Trump only pulled in 34 percent of the vote, a number generally insufficient to win primaries. The candidate closest to Trump was Kasich, who pulled out a surprising second. Kasich has been running far to the left of both the Republican Party and his own record, but Kasich’s positive campaign has struck a chord with many voters. While this is bizarre — Kasich built up a reputation in the House of Representatives as being an arrogant hothead who would fight anyone — with Trump representing little of conservative orthodoxy and Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX) taking the “true conservative” role for himself, the cheerful tone of Kasich’s campaign could put him in a strong position if former Florida governor Jeb Bush joins New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in exiting the race.
One person in the Republican Party who disappointed on primary night was Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL). After a terrible debate performance, Rubio managed only fifth place in New Hampshire, annihilating his stated “3-2-1” strategy of coming third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, and first in South Carolina. Rubio has to pick up the pieces fast, or the support he has been gaining will dissipate quickly.
On the Democratic side, Sanders demolished Clinton in a state that has been home to some of the most memorable moments in the careers of both the secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. The defeat was not surprising. While much is made of the fact that Sanders won across all demographics, winning all demographics in New Hampshire is like counting to one. Sanders has been leading Clinton among white, liberal voters for a long time. Those demographics match up with New Hampshire, which has one of the whitest and most liberal Democratic electorates in the nation. Sanders’s ability to appeal to minority voters — particularly minority voters over age thirty — is yet to be seen. It is impossible to win the Democratic nomination with such a heavily white coalition, so Sanders has his work cut out for him, despite the impressive win. However, President Obama had a similar problem before his stunning win in Iowa, so it’s possible the momentum from this big of a win could bring many people to Sanders’ side.
Both parties appear to be in disarray after New Hampshire. With such a long, lazy stretch in primary season, this feeling of panic is likely to last long enough to create major shockwaves in the election. With all of its resources, the GOP has been heavily influential in deciding nominees over the past several decades, but the Granite State flexed its first-in-the-nation primary muscle on Tuesday and now things start to get interesting.