More than half a million Democrats, Republicans and independents braved long lines, slushy roads and cold breezes Tuesday to cast ballots in the nation’s second presidential nominating contests of the year, handing big wins to New York billionaire Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The results shake up an already turbulent race, and at least one candidate has already been sent packing: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to announce Wednesday he’s ending what was always a long-shot bid for the presidency. With 10 days to go before the next round of votes are cast in South Carolina and Nevada, here’s who came out of New Hampshire ahead and behind:
Sanders and Trump: Both candidates won by larger margins than most expected. Some Republicans thought Trump’s voters would again fail to show up, and that he would win by single digits, at best. Instead, he doubled the second-place finisher. Sanders once again outperformed thanks to a surge of young voters who favor him by margins that would make even Barack Obama jealous.
Angry Voters: Exit polls paint a shocking portrait of an electorate sick and tired of politics as usual, and of the candidates who represent the status quo. Just 17 percent of Democratic voters who said they wanted a candidate who cares about people like them voted for Hillary Clinton, while 82 percent backed Sanders. Nearly half, 47 percent, of Republican voters said they felt betrayed by leaders of their own party. The candidates who remain will have to harness those voters moving forward; that’s good for Sanders, Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — Trump and Cruz especially, given the roster of Southern states set to weigh in over the next three weeks.
John Kasich: If ever 16 percent of the vote can be spun as a win, it’s now. The Ohio governor made clear a strong showing in New Hampshire was a do-or-die moment for his campaign, and he did. His path to the nomination remains narrow and complex, and his campaign is likely to live hand to mouth, hunting for new donations. But he staved off defeat, and his campaign lives on. For now.
Pollsters: After missing the mark in Iowa, a handful of pollsters — ARG, Gravis, Monmouth and Emerson — correctly called the top two Republican finishers. No one really caught the depths of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s slide, though other metrics such as Google searches and Facebook interactions spotted his decline. Primaries are tough to poll, and pollsters by nature take a visible risk when they release numbers. New Hampshire proves the opinion research field isn’t completely dead.
South Carolina and Nevada: As establishment favorites stumble, their only hope is an all-out war in the next two states in line, ensuring voters in both states will get a front-row view of the craziest presidential contest in memory, one that’s sure to devolve into what one Rubio strategist called a “bloodbath.” Wait, do they belong in the winners or losers category?
Hillary Clinton: Spin all they want, Clinton’s campaign lost by a wider margin than they expected. Over the weekend, Clinton allies told us they expected to lose by a margin somewhere in the low teens. They ended up losing by more than 20 points. And the exit polls should terrify Clinton’s team: Forget young voters and first-timers, those who want a candidate who cares about them or a candidate who is honest and trustworthy picked Sanders by stunning margins. Even 40 percent of voters who said Clinton shared their values opted for Sanders instead.
The Republican Establishment: Tuesday’s results were the worst possible outcome for the business wing of the Republican Party: Rubio is weakened, Bush looks set to bring out the long knives, and Kasich has an excuse to stick around. Any hopes that the divided base could unite to confront the Trump-Cruz wing of the party early enough to head off a months-long slog to what might still be a contested convention flew right out the window when New Hampshire polls closed.
Marco Rubio: From hopes of a surprise first-place finish to a distant fifth in just a matter of days. If Rubio’s campaign hoped to use Iowa and New Hampshire as springboards toward a coalition of the establishment wing of the Republican Party, their second step was a pretty bad twist of the ankle.
Jeb Bush: Yesterday looked like it could have been either the best day of Bush’s campaign, with a surprising last-minute surge, or the worst (and probably last) day of his campaign, if he finished behind Rubio. Instead, he scored a decidedly “meh” fourth place, just ahead of Rubio. He’ll have to spend the next 10 days tearing down his one-time protege, and risk the Bush family name in the process. Then again, his path to the nomination looks marginally brighter after Rubio’s stumble, so maybe he belongs closer to the win column.
Chris Christie: The kamikaze move at Saturday’s debate definitely brought Rubio down a peg, but it didn’t benefit Christie at all. He could still be the next Republican president’s attorney general, but he won’t be the guy in the Oval Office.
New Hampshire Pizza Makers: Here’s the stack of pizza boxes at Marco Rubio’s New Hampshire headquarters over the weekend. Add in the Bush, Kasich, Christie, Trump, Clinton and Sanders teams, and that’s a whole lot of pie. With campaigns pulling up stakes and moving beyond the Granite State, expect massive layoffs at pizza joints around the state. (We kid, we kid.)