MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Sen. Bernie Sanders and billionaire Donald Trump have won the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries in New Hampshire, in victories so decisive that the drama of primary night shifted to the Republicans battling for second, third and fourth place.
Projected to finish in second was Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a relatively moderate candidate who might face a difficult time unifying the party behind him in the next few primary states. After Kasich, there was a close race for third between Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — who won the Iowa caucuses last week — and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Behind all of them was Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who had been seen as the strongest challenger to Trump until a disastrous debate performance on Saturday, in which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attacked Rubio and the senator responded by repeating the same talking point over and over.
But if Christie’s attack had hurt Rubio, it didn’t seem to have helped Christie himself: Christie was running behind Rubio, last among the four “establishment” candidates.
The results for his challengers seemed to be a good one for Trump, since it was likely that a large number of them would continue on to the next primaries, dividing the voters who want to see Trump defeated.
In the Democratic race, Sanders was the winner over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who had been seen as her party’s prohibitive favorite a year ago.
“Nine months ago, we began our campaign here in New Hampshire, we had no campaign organization. We had no money. And we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America,” Sanders said to his supporters. “And tonight, with what it appears to be a record-breaking voter turnout, because of a huge voter turnout – and I say YUGE! – we won,” Sanders said, poking fun at the New York City accent he shares with Trump. The crowd had yelled “YUUUGE!” along with him.
Sanders said that the enthusiasm his supporters showed in New Hampshire could be replicated in other primaries and in a general election, with a strongly left-wing message drawing out new voters who’d be left unenthused by a centrist.
“That is what will happen all over this country!” Sanders said.
Sanders is a self-identified “democratic socialist,” originally little known outside Washington and his home state of Vermont. But he built a massive movement with rousing attacks on the power of Wall Street, and a promise of a “political revolution” that would provide universal, government-run health insurance and free public-college tuition.
Sanders was also helped by Clinton’s struggles to explain why she’d used a private email server to handle government business while she was secretary of state, a scandal that has hung over her candidacy for months.
“Now we take this campaign to this entire country. We are going to fight for every vote in every state,” Clinton told supporters after conceding. She then returned to a constant theme of her campaign, which was that she — unlike Sanders — was ready for the long slog that politics demands. “People have every right to be angry. But they’re also hungry. They’re hungry for solutions.”
Clinton’s defeat in New Hampshire was so resounding – and so long anticipated – that Clinton’s campaign conceded immediately when the polls closed at 8 p.m. The campaign sent out a statement downplaying the importance of New Hampshire, which Clinton won in 2008. Her campaign promised to fight on through March, including the next-up contests in Nevada and South Carolina. The next states, Clinton’s campaign said, would be more likely to turn out her way.
“Whereas the electorates in Iowa and New Hampshire are largely rural/suburban and predominantly white, the March states better reflect the true diversity of the Democratic Party and the nation,” Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook wrote in the statement. Clinton’s campaign has said it expects to do far better among African American and Latino voters than Sanders will.
Exit polls reported by CNN showed that Sanders had beaten Clinton across a wide variety of demographic groups — including women, who voted for Sanders by a margin of 55 percent to 44 percent.
Sanders also won decisively among self-identified independents, taking that group by 72 percent. The two candidates evenly split voters who identified themselves as Democrats. Sanders also won all the ideological groups that the polls surveyed: Democratic voters calling themselves “very liberal,” “somewhat liberal,” and “moderate” all preferred him to Clinton.
Another telling detail: Clinton won handily among the voters who said the quality they wanted most in a candidate was “electability.” Her advantage among that group was 81 percent to 18 percent. But Sanders dominated in the group that said the most important quality was that the candidate “cares,” and in the group that said it was most important that the candidate was honest. In the group that cared about honesty, Sanders won by 92 percent to 6 percent, according to CNN.
Among Republicans, Trump’s victory — even though it had been predicted for weeks — is still a remarkable turnabout. Last summer, Trump had seemed like an afterthought in a race that seemed likely to be dominated by Bush, and the massive campaign war chest assembled to back Bush.
But Trump’s TV experience made him a commanding figure in early debates, where other candidates seemed unsure how to handle a candidate who insulted their looks and told them to shush. And Trump’s blunt message, which promised a massive wall on the southern border and a program to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants, resonated with voters who felt their party had ignored the issue for too long.
“We are going to do something so good, and so fast, and so strong. And the world is going to respect us again. Believe me,” Trump said to supporters, during a speech that began with Trump thanking his late parents. He then reviewed a series of campaign promises, including his plan to build the border wall. “We’re going to build a wall. It’s going to be built. It’s not even, it’s not even a difficult thing to do.” He also said he would be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
The crowd chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
“That’s so beautiful,” he said.
In a moment that captured so much of this campaign, Trump’s speech happened at the same time as Bush’s own speech, and largely kept Bush – projected a year ago as the race’s favorite – off the air.
For Trump, the victory here in New Hampshire was a vindication of his unusual campaign style, which favored huge rallies and free TV exposure over the kind of data-driven, expensive voter-turnout efforts that mark most modern campaigns.
In Iowa, Trump used that approach and lost to Cruz and his high-tech “ground game.” But in New Hampshire, it was enough.
Trump’s approach is likely to be tested further in the upcoming contests in the South, starting with South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 20 and turning a week later to a group of “Super Tuesday” states.
One of the big New Hampshire surprises was Kasich, a pragmatic Midwesterner whose candidacy has been an afterthought nationally but who steadily built a pitch-perfect campaign for this state that roused mainstream voters with high visibility on the ground and a call to lift up people in the shadows.
Kasich told supporters Tuesday night that his second-place finish was evidence an optimistic message could win.
“There’s magic in the air with this campaign,” Kasich said. “We never went negative, because we have more good to sell.”
The Ohio governor called on supporters to join his effort “to re-shine America. To restore the spirit of America. And to leave no one behind.”
But the race now moves south, where Kasich faces immediate hurdles to prove he is more than a one-state wonder and where Trump has found deep and enthusiastic support for his incendiary nationalistic platform. Cruz is well positioned to contend with Trump for the top spot in those states because of his broad coalition of movement conservatives and evangelicals.
For the Republicans, the character of the race appeared to change over the weekend after a Saturday debate in which Rubio faltered in the face of stinging barbs from Christie.
In an uncharacteristically blunt fashion, Rubio on Tuesday night blamed himself for his poor showing in the primary.
“Our disappointment tonight is not on you — it’s on me. I did not do well on Saturday night. So listen to this: that will never happen again,” he vowed.
Late Tuesday, Christie seemed sobered by his defeat – and contemplating an end to his campaign. Before Tuesday’s results were in, Christie had said he planned to campaign in South Carolina, extending his campaign to the next primary state. Now, he said, he would return to New Jersey, and watch for the final results from New Hampshire.
“That’s going to allow us to make a decision about how we move from here in this race. But there’s no reason to sit in a hotel in South Carolina to hear that,” Christie said.
While in New Jersey, he said, “We can actually get a change of clothes, which would be a nice thing.”
If Christie does drop out because of New Hampshire, that would mark the end of a long decline for one of the most talented retail politicians in the race. Christie had once been the front-runner in New Hampshire, way back in 2014, but he was undone by a scandal from his own administration – in which aides allegedly caused a traffic jam on a major bridge in order to punish a local mayor who hadn’t endorsed Christie’s re-election.
And he was outshone by Trump, who stole away the role that Christie had sought to play: the race’s brash straight-talker.
Jose A. DelReal, Jenna Johnson, Sean Sullivan, John Wagner, Michael Kranish, Abby Phillip, Anne Gearan, Ed O’Keefe and Karen Tumulty contributed to this report.