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.
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.