Candidates widely expected to eventually lose dominate New Hampshire

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders ran away with it last night in New Hampshire. With 92% reporting, Trump holds a nearly 20-point edge over John Kasich (35-15, with Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio each taking between ten and eleven percent), while Sanders’s lead over Hillary Clinton is closer to 22% (60-38).

Put another way, the candidates that the Democratic and Republican Party elites would like to see win, and the candidates that political observers widely expect to win, all lost last night by at least 20 points. in Marco Rubio’s case, his fifth place finish was closer to a 25-point loss.

Bernie Sanders speaking at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, via John Pemble / Flickr

Bernie Sanders, via John Pemble / Flickr

What’s more, these candidates didn’t just lose; they underperformed relative to pre-election polling averages. Unlike in Iowa, where Rubio surged late and Donald Trump’s anemic, sexist field organization failed to turn out many voters, both Trump and Sanders overperformed relative to Election Day polling averages, while Rubio and Clinton fell short. So while Trump and Sanders were both widely expected to win New Hampshire — and New Hampshire ain’t the White House — it’s perhaps an even bigger deal that they beat expectations.

For Republican elites, this is an utter disaster, as the paths to victory for their preferred candidates are becoming increasingly narrow. That John Kasich — an underfunded candidate who has only seriously campaigned in one state — came in second means that he’s stolen any momentum the more viable establishment candidates (Rubio and, amazingly, Bush). Furthermore, as former Mitt Romney campaign manager Stuart Stevens wrote in the Daily Beast earlier this week, the non-Trump candidates have seemingly decided that it is all in their narrow self-interests to attack candidates not named Donald Trump. Everyone seems to assume that at some point Trump will simply implode — that he’ll lose on his own — but New Hampshire sure didn’t help bolster that assumption.

On the Democratic side, it’s still true that Bernie’s supporters shouldn’t get too excited. New Hampshire was always going to be one of his strongest states. But come on, winning by 22 points is huge. Winning young voters by a nearly 9 to 1 margin is huge. Winning among voters at every income level except over $200,000 per year is huge. Sanders has won New Hampshire by enough that his victory can’t simply be brushed off as “it’s just New Hampshire.” Hillary Clinton is still far and away the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, but it’s hard to argue that she didn’t become slightly less inevitable last night.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Kalil Chernov

    I’d say it’s more like we’re trying to predict a triple crown winner when none of the horses have more than three legs.

  • FLL

    On the Democratic side, things are still in play until March 1 (Super Tuesday). If Bernie gets maybe 40% in the Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary, he would still have to actually win some Super Tuesday states to have a shot at the nomination… those states being Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts (and of course, Vermont). Even if Hillary won the rest on March 1, Bernie would be well positioned if he won the above mentioned Super Tuesday states. If Bernie simply cannot win outside northern New England, that’s another story.

    On the Republican side, I cannot imagine anyone overtaking Trump. The only wild card is if—for some unseen purpose—Trump does not actually want the nomination. Barring that, what possible competition does Trump have? Rubio has been exposed as the brainless wind-up doll that he is, and his support has utterly vanished as a result. Cruz, although possessing some brains, has been exposed as the nasty, cheating, back-stabbing asswipe that he is, and with the exception of fundamentalist Christians, Cruz is widely loathed among Republicans—not to mention the rest of the country. Becca clearly explained the reason for Jeb’s certain failure: he cannot perform the necessary task of distancing himself from his brother’s memory, which is so hated throughout the country. I’ll agree with Jon Green that Kasich is no moderate, but that doesn’t change the fact that Kasich is still far too “moderate” for most Republican primary voters and doesn’t represent any issue (such as xenophobia) that has caught fire among Republicans. Looking at polls of likely Republican primary voters from just about anywhere, Trump seems to have it in the bag. But does Trump have some secret reason to drop out? What a soap opera.

  • Jeb Bush is doing lousy because, well, he’s a Bush. His only chance to stand out among the GOP hopefuls would’ve been to throw his brother under the bus and he won’t do it. Very few people want a presidency indistinguishable from Dubya’s. Trump also tore him to shreds and he’s never recovered from that.

    As for Rubio, I maintain he had his “Oops” moment in that debate, the moment when the blinders come off and people see in general and for the first time some disqualifying quality in the candidate. For Perry, there had long been whispers the guy was kind of dim, but not being able to remember the names of the three cabinet-level departments he thought needed to be abolished gelled this as his defining moment.

    Same with Rubio: There had long been talk about two of his quirks. One was being excessively scripted, to the point where he’d answer questions with non-sequiturs. The other that he’d crack under pressure and had both verbal (“dispel with this fiction” and “ram down our throats”) and physical tics (such as the water-bottle security blanket). Most of all though, when someone says all you have is 25-second memorized sound bites, the worst thing you can do is immediately prove them right and do so with a sound bite which is really quite lousy and pointless. Now the news is full of Marcobots and open speculation whether he’s too fragile and would choke in any crisis.

    What Iowa, New Hampshire and the other early states do is shake out the candidates who really have no chance at all. We’re not even through the list yet and right now it’s like trying to predict a Triple Crown winner when the horses in question haven’t even passed the first turn in the first race.

  • 2karmanot

    “and, amazingly, Bush” Oh, i don’t know about ‘amazing’ Jon. Without Momma Bush barnstorming for her baby nebbish, lil jeb’ could barely exercise enough energy to wave his baby flag. Yawn….sigh…NEXT

  • Ol’ Hippy

    The fact that the outsiders are showing so strong is a big indication of unrest amongst the voters. I’m glad the the powerful can be disturbed and show alarm. But if “they” were really threatened there would be a convenient accident or two and the status quo would still rule the day. “They” just won’t give it up that easy.

  • Skycat

    From the Democratic Strategist:

    “Looking at vote totals in NH, Sanders was the top vote-getter by far, racking up a tally of 138,716 votes with 92 percent of the returns in, compared to Trump’s 2nd place finish of 92,417 votes. Clinton received 88,827, followed by Kasich’s 41,813 votes.

    Of the more than half of a million ballots cast and 92 percent of the ballots counted, all of the Republican candidates together received more than 30 thousand more votes than the two Democratic candidates together.

    Trump did well with white working class voters, while Sanders did even better. As Patrick Healey notes in his NYT article, “New Hampshire Takeaways: Trust, Experience and Message Count”:

    In the 2008 Democratic primaries, Mrs. Clinton beat Mr. Obama in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states partly because of solid support from working-class white voters. But Mr. Sanders prevailed with these voters in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Sixty-eight percent of white noncollege graduates supported him, as did 65 percent of people from families earning less than $50,000. On the Republican side, the same groups of voters broke strongly for Mr. Trump.

    That would be 68 percent of white non college Democratic voters supporting Sanders. CNN Exit polling indicates Clinton received 30 percent of white Democratic voters with no college degree. Clearly, Sanders received more white working class votes than did any other candidate of either party.”

    http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/strategist/2016/02/how_the_white_working_class_vo.php

  • Don Chandler

    They say it was a record turnout but how does it break down in numbers: Republican Primary voters vs Democrat primary voters.

  • Wade Marsten

    And yet in New Hampshire he did better among working class Democrats than Hillary; in fact, she only did better among those closest to the top 1%, those earning over $200,000 per year. Dems da facts.

  • The following things are not mutually exclusive:
    1. A lot of working class Democrats prefer Clinton to Sanders
    2. Practically all of the Democratic elites (as in, superdelegates: senators, House members, governors, DNC members, etc.) prefer Clinton to Sanders

  • orogeny

    ” the candidates that the Democratic and Republican Party elites would like to see win”

    This is the kind of thing that ticks me off. Like it or not, Clinton is the candidate of a whole lot of working class Democrats.

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