Bernie Sanders Crushes Hillary Clinton In New Hampshire, But Clinton Still Favored
As expected, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders easily defeated Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire last night, but the win still seems like something that will merely delay Clinton ultimately winning the Democratic nomination rather than denying it to her for the second time in eight years:
CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders scored a decisive victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire presidential primary, embarrassing Hillary Clinton in a state she won eight years ago and upending the Democratic nominating contest.
Sanders’s victory, which Clinton conceded when polls closed at 8 p.m., confirmed the strength of his iconoclastic appeal and the power of an insurgent message that cast Clinton as a creature of the old guard. The outcome provides a fresh burst of momentum for Sanders, a senator from Vermont, in a race that will soon broaden to more challenging terrain and that is widely expected to grow more combative as Clinton tries to regain her footing. The former secretary of state, who was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses last week by the narrowest of margins, now finds herself struggling to right her once-formidable campaign against a self-described democratic socialist whom she has accused of selling pipe dreams.
“People have every right to be angry, but they’re hungry. They’re hungry for solutions,” Clinton said in a brief concession speech shortly after she called Sanders to congratulate him. “What are we going to do? That is the fight we’re taking” to the rest of the country.
Sanders’s lengthy victory speech focused on his core issues of Wall Street greed and income inequality, but also ranged to national security, immigration, Social Security and more. He told cheering supporters that the same improbable arc that brought him to victory here can happen across the country.
“What began last week in Iowa, what voters confirmed here tonight, is nothing short of the beginning of a political revolution,” Sanders said. “We will all come together to say loudly and clearly that the government of our great nation belongs to all of us, not just a few wealthy campaign contributors.”
Shortly before midnight, with roughly three-quarters of precincts tallied, Sanders had a huge, double-digit lead. Four hours earlier, a Clinton campaign memo was released as the polls closed stating that the loss was “long anticipated.”
“Attention will inevitably focus on the next two of the ‘early four’ states: Nevada and South Carolina,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote. “We’ve built first-rate organizations in each state and we feel very good about our prospects for success” there and in states that vote in March, the memo stated.
Sanders planned to challenge those assumptions immediately. He was scheduled to leave New Hampshire late Tuesday and head to New York for a day-long victory lap. Following a breakfast with civil rights leader and television host Al Sharpton, Sanders is scheduled to appear on “The View” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” among other media appearances.
The meeting with Sharpton is part of an effort to widen Sanders’s support among African American voters, who will figure prominently in several upcoming primaries in Southern states — and who have favored Clinton by broad margins in polls.
Clinton is racing to shore up that advantage by turning next to states with large minority populations. She has scheduled campaign stops in South Carolina and Nevada in the next week, with an emphasis on criminal justice and gun control, issues on which she has attempted to get out ahead of Sanders or to his political left. Her campaign also announced new support from African American mothers who have lost children to gun violence and said some of the women would campaign for Clinton in South Carolina.
The fundraising race will also intensify — and already had, shortly after the race was called Tuesday.
Even before Sanders took the stage Tuesday night to acknowledge his victory, his campaign sent out a text message to supporters saying: “With your help, we were just declared the winner in New Hampshire! Reply GIVE to contribute $10 from your phone bill and keep up the momentum.”
Clinton’s campaign had been lowering expectations for New Hampshire, based largely on what Clinton called a “neighborly” impulse, although Sanders’s appeal here cannot be chalked up to that alone. Clinton trailed by an average of 15 points in major polls going into the nation’s first primary vote, and she ran an underdog campaign here in the closing weeks. Her campaign had watched as a 30-point lead here dwindled and then evaporated late last year.
Sanders’s appeal Tuesday was greatest among younger voters, according to exit polls reported by CNN and other networks. He also benefited from New Hampshire’s open primaries, which allow independents to vote in either the Democratic or Republican contests, winning roughly 7 in 10 not registered as Democrats.
Sanders also won decisively among male voters and more than held his own among female voters against Clinton, who would be the first woman to serve as president, a fact several of her high-profile boosters made a central part of their appeal in recent days.
As I noted yesterday, Sanders had held a steady lead in the Granite State since roughly mid-August when the seeming grassroots appeal of his campaign combined with the issues that have been hanging over Clinton’s campaign since the spring to boost the Vermont Senator beyond levels that even he probably thought he could achieve. While Clinton did catch up to some extent when her campaign seemingly turned itself around in October and November of last year, Sanders soon resumed its momentum in December and, especially, after the first of the year when he began to lead in every Granite State poll released and eventually took a double digit lead that seemed, and ultimately was, insurmountable. With the results last week in Iowa ending with Clinton and Sanders in what effectively amounts to a tie, there was seemingly no chance that Clinton would catch up to her unlikely challenger, and indeed to some extent one got the impression watching Bill and Hillary Clinton campaign in the week before the primary that they knew that Sanders would ultimately win the race. By the time voters were heading to the polls yesterday, there were reports that Clinton was considering shuffling her campaign staff in an effort to respond to outside criticism of how the campaign was being run and the fact that what once seemed inevitable had now become something Clinton would have to fight for just as she did in 2008.
With the loss in New Hampshire now official, the talk among Team Clinton has moved on to turning the campaign around in the coming weeks, and looking ahead to the stack of primaries in March to put the Sanders challenge behind them:
MANCHESTER, N.H. – Both Hillary and Bill Clinton knew she would lose here — but not by this much.
Now, after a drubbing so serious as to call into question every aspect of her campaign from her data operation to her message, the wounded front-runner and her allies are actively preparing to retool their campaign, according to Clinton allies.
Staffing and strategy will be reassessed. The message, which so spectacularly failed in New Hampshire, where she was trailing by 21 points when she appeared before her supporters to concede to Bernie Sanders, is also going to be reworked – with race at the center of it.
Clinton is set to campaign with the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, unarmed African-Americans who died in incidents involving law enforcement officers and a neighborhood watch representative, respectively. And the campaign, sources said, is expected to push a new focus on systematic racism, criminal justice reform, voting rights and gun violence that will mitigate concerns about her lack of an inspirational message.
“The gun message went silent in New Hampshire,” remarked one ally close to the campaign. “Guns will come back in a strong way.” She is expected to highlight the problem of gun violence as the leading cause of death among African-American men as she campaigns in South Carolina on Friday.
In her concession speech, which she gave about 30 minutes after the polls closed with Chelsea and Bill Clinton standing behind her, Clinton began to preview that new message — framing her remarks around a call for human rights and an end to discrimination.
“Where people are held back by injustice anywhere in America, that demands action,” she said. “We also have to break through the barriers of bigotry.” She added that “immigrant families shouldn’t have to lie awake at night listening for a knock at the door.”
Twice, she referenced her visit to Flint, Michigan, this week, a largely African-American city in crisis because of lead-contaminated water that has affected at least 8,000 children under the age of 6. “It isn’t right that the kids I met in Flint on Sunday night were poisoned because their governor wanted to save money,” she told the New Hampshire crowd.
The race issue was also front and center in the memo released by campaign manager Robby Mook before the polls closed, just minutes before the race was called for Sanders.
“It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for a Democrat to win the nomination without strong levels of support among African American and Hispanic voters,” Mook said in the three-page memo. “And a Democrat who is unable to inspire strong levels of support in minority communities will have no credible path to winning the presidency in the general election.”
On paper, Mook’s observations are entirely correct, and they point toward a campaign that, while longer than Clinton and her advisers may have hoped, is still ultimately headed toward Clinton ultimately winning the nomination. One of the primary reasons for this, of course, is the fact that Clinton has an overwhelming advantage among some of the most important parts of the Democratic Party’s coalition, African-Americans and Latino voters. Both of these voting blocs will play an important role in the final two contests of February in Nevada and South Carolina, as well across the vast swath of southern states that will hold primaries on March 1st and later in early March. Sanders, on the other hand, has been unable to expand his appeal in either among either of those groups and has relied largely upon his support among educated, middle class, and younger voters to propel him in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The future Democratic primary calendar, though, looks far different than those two states, though, and the problems that presents for Sanders are readily apparent. Clinton holds double digit leads in the polling in both South Carolina and Nevada, although it’s worth noting that it has been about two weeks now since there was any polling in either state so we don’t know whether the events in Iowa and New Hampshire has had any impact on the race there or not. For the moment at least, though, it seems as though Clinton has the opportunity to push back against Sanders’ strong performance in the early part of February with an equally strong performance in the final two primaries of the month. If she manages to do that, then it will likely alleviate much of the talk of her campaign being under siege from an insurgent Sanders campaign. Beyond February, Clinton seems well suited to do well in the massive SEC primary that will take place in many southern states in March 1st, in no small part due to the fact that victory in those states will also depend strongly on good performance among minority voters. Sanders, on the other hand, will have to deal with the prospect of campaigning vigorously in more than one state at a time, something he hasn’t needed to do to until now, and it’s not at all clear that his campaign has the infrastructure needed to effectively run that kind of campaign notwithstanding the fact that it has been able to effectively match Clinton’s campaign when it comes to fundraising.
Or, as Harry Enten puts it, from here on out it gets harder for Bernie Sanders:
Sanders has yet to demonstrate strength in a state whose electorate isn’t more than 90 percent white. Nevada and South Carolina, the next contests, don’t look anything like Iowa or New Hampshire. Only 65 percent of voters were white in the 2008 Democratic caucus in Nevada, and only 43 percent were in South Carolina.
Polling has indicated that Sanders trails among nonwhite voters by nearly40 percentage points nationally. Although no reliable recent polling is available in Nevada, Clinton leads by 30 percentage points in both of ourSouth Carolina forecasts. In the latest Marist College poll, she’s buoyed by a 74 percent to 17 percent lead among black voters. Sanders must cut into that margin if he wants to have any chance in South Carolina or anywhere in the South.
You could already see how Sanders might have problems in Nevada and South Carolina even as he was crushing Clinton in New Hampshire. Despite winning the state by more than 20 percentage points, the best Sanders could manage among registered Democrats was a tie. His large margin came from registered independents who voted in the Democratic primary. You must be a registered Democrat to vote in the Nevada caucuses, though you can register as one the day of the election. In 2008, 81 percent of Nevada caucus-goers self-identified as Democrats. Just 58 percent of New Hampshire voters on Tuesday thought of themselves as Democrats.
Most worrisome for Sanders is his 25-percentage-point loss among New Hampshire Democrats who want to continue President Obama’s policies. Obama’s current job approval rating among blacks nationally is about 90 percent. Sanders will have big problems in South Carolina if he doesn’t do better among voters who like Obama.
Finally, the manner in which Democrats allocate delegates, along with the role played by the so-called “Superdelegates,” would seem to ultimately work to Clinton’s advantage. Notwithstanding his big win last night, for example, Sanders only leads Clinton by two delegates at this early stage of the race, for example, and as we go forward Clinton will likely stack up big wins in the larger states that will put more delegates in her column than in Sanders. Finally, for many voters in New Hampshire and Iowa it seems clear that supporting the Sanders campaign has been more about sending a message than backing a candidate likely to be a strong Democratic nominee for President. With Iowa and New Hampshire behind us, it’s likely that future voters will be more serious about who they’re supporting. It may take more time than anticipated, but absent something entirely unforeseen, Clinton is still far better positioned to be the Democratic nominee and as more Democrats realize this reality one suspects the Sanders momentum will fizzle out. If by some chance it doesn’t, though, then Clinton could find herself in a state-by-state fight for delegates to the bitter end. The difference is that Bernie Sanders is no Barack Obama and, this time, Clinton seems far better situated to pull off a win than she was eight years ago.