It was a huge, sorry, Yuugge night for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Sanders beat Clinton by over 20 points. He far exceeded the RCP polling predictions. While Trump’s victory was what was projected, it was still a 2:1 margin over surprise 2nd place finisher, John Kasich.
NBC News exit polling found Sanders captured 85% of the under 30 crowd, 72% of independents voting in the Democratic primary, and 65% of those identifying as very liberal. WBUR exit poll reported that Sanders beat Clinton by 11 points among women voters. (This means according to noted theologian Madeline Albright, a lot of New Hampshire women are going to Hell). Finally, 93% of Democratic Voters consider Bernie Sanders to be the most trustworthy. Hillary Clinton? 5%.
Holy crap these numbers are bad for Clinton. This was a shellacking pure and simple. And Clinton knows this. She is seeing a repeat of her 2008 humiliation. Last night’s speech was worthy of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts: Hillary Clinton is genuinely angry that people aren’t voting for her and she is blaming the voters. Her attack on the Supreme Court decision on Citizen’s United boiled down to this: No one has a 1st Amendment Right to criticize her.
But for the fact that the Democrats opted to conduct their 2016 primary campaign as a coronation of the Clinton dynasty, the long knives would be out. You would have the other candidates vying to take out Clinton and become the main opponent of Sanders (see the 2016 GOP campaign). But this is a two person race. This all the Democrats have. As I’ve noted before, most of the deadlines for entering the primaries have passed. (At least in 1968, there was still time for RFK and others to jump in). There isn’t enough time for any candidate to jump into the race. To paraphrase former Boston Celtic’s coach Rick Petitino, Joe Biden isn’t coming in through that door. John Kerry is walking in that door. Elizabeth Warren is walking through that door. And if they do, they will be too late.
Clinton’s only (and I mean only) saving grace is, as I noted yesterday, this is Sanders’s high water mark. The Clinton machine is going to go all out to destroy Sanders now. Nothing will be off limits. (Recall it was Clinton backers in 2008 that started spreading the “Obama is a Kenyan” rumor that begat the Birther movement). In addition, the voter demographics become much more diverse as the election focus shifts to the South and West. Sanders has not traditionally polled well among non-white Democrats. Until recent polling data for South Carolina and Nevada are released, there is no way to know how his victory in New Hampshire and near-win in Iowa have moved the needle.
While many thought Sanders had entered the race simply to push Hillary Clinton to be a more progressive Democrat, he is now acting as if he is trying to win. And to win, he will need to broaden his support based. This is probably why he is meeting with Al Sharpton this morning.
On the GOP side, Trump won. It was a clear and convincing victory. Despite the fact that Trump is not a conservative and has supported gun control, single payer, government run health care and opposes free-trade, which is the polar opposite of what the modern Republican Party advocates, he captured over a 1/3 of the vote. I didn’t think Trump would last this long. Clearly he has tapped into a deep well of anger Americans have for the current two party system. (In exit polls, 40% of Republican voters said they were angry with how the Federal government is working. 42% of them went to Trump. Cruz got 15% of that group). It might behoove the media to explore why people are so angry. (I know they won’t. It’s much easier to mock Trump and his supporters). He is not going to fade any time soon. Last Saturday’s debate showed the other candidates Trump’s weaknesses on issues such as eminent domain. They will need to focus their attacks on those issues.
Saturday’s debate played a big role in last night’s results. Before Saturday, Rubio was moving up in the polls and looked to solidify a 2nd place showing and succeed with his 3-2-1 strategy. Chris Christie’s attack on Robo-Rubio were amazingly effective. 46% of Republican voters made their decisions on who to vote for within the last few days. Over half said the debate played a role in their decision. (While Trump won a lot of these voters, Kasich seemed to have gained the most ground).
This was a horrible night for Rubio. He finished 5th. Jeb Bush finished ahead of him. Rubio, to his credit, admitted he made mistakes and blamed himself (though the media keeps trying to claim he blamed them) for his poor showing. It probably didn’t help his case that he repeated some of his canned lines within a speech promising not to use canned lines. This hasn’t killed Rubio’s campaign, but it has pushed him back into the pack of candidates. If he wants to remain a viable alternative to Trump, he will need to do exceedingly well in South Carolina and decent in Nevada. I don’t think he can win South Carolina after last night’s showing, but he will need a strong third to stay. If he comes in second, then he vaults back to being the “establishment” choice for President.
Rubio’s other problem is last night was a good night for Jeb Bush. Bush beat Rubio, coming in 4th. While there is not a lot of evidence for Jeb Bush momentum, Bush’s strong performance gives him every incentive to stay in the race and challenge Rubio for Florida on Super Tuesday. By allowing Jeb to hang around, Rubio complicates his own campaign.
There is still no clear path to victory for Jeb Bush. He is not the right type of conservative for 2016. His presence continues to split the anti-Trump vote. But by beating Rubio, he has made the case to stay in a little longer and present his vision.
Ted Cruz had a decent night. Not great, but decent. New Hampshire is not Cruz’s natural habitat. The Granite State still has a lot of traditional, Rockefeller, rock-ribbed Republicans. Coming in third allows him to make the case in South Carolina that he is electable and can appeal to all regions.
John Kasich had the best night of all GOP candidates save Trump. It was a solid second place finish. It allows to him to argue he is viable and he will be able to stick it out until
Super Tuesday March 15th and the Ohio Primary. (I doubt he will campaign much in South Carolina of Nevada). He’ll win Ohio for sure. If he can pick up some of the other states by that day (especially as Bush and Rubio will be battling to the [political] death for Florida), Kasich will be in for the long haul. This will split the anti-Trump vote 3 ways: Cruz, Rubio/Bush, and Kasich.
As for everyone else, as I noted yesterday Fiorina and Carson should call it quits. They’re done. There is no path by which they are going to win the nomination or amass sufficient delegates to affect the outcome.
Chris Christie announced he was heading back to New Jersey to assess his campaign. I think this tweet sums up his position:
Jim Gilmore got 118 votes. I think he conceded defeat, but I’m not sure as most of the media didn’t cover it. I think only his niece, Rory Gilmore, was the only accredited reporter following his campaign.
Seriously Gov. Gilmore, it’s time to let it go. Mike Huckabee, who dropped out a week ago Monday, got 210 votes. Rand Paul got 1700 votes (1%) and he isn’t running. Vermin Supreme, a guy who wears a boot on his head, got more votes than you. You are not going to get the nomination. You are not going to get any delegates. Let.It.Go.
Next Up is South Carolina and Nevada. All we need now is data as to what is going on in those states.
One Final thought: in both New Hampshire and Iowa, the polls got at least part of the story wrong. In Iowa, it vastly overstated Trump’s support. In New Hampshire, it vastly understated Sanders’s support. (The Republican side was closer to the polls numbers. Even though Bush and Cruz out-performed Rubio, their totals were all within the polls margins of error). Pollsters need to figure out what is going wrong.
[EDIT: For some reason I kept thinking Ohio’s election was on Super Tuesday, March 1st. It is not. Ohio holds theirs two weeks later, on March 15. Florida also holds their election that day, so the basic argument still holds. I’ve made slight edits to that paragraph]