In a landmark primary, New Hampshire voters delivered major victories to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two candidates who tapped into deep dissatisfaction with politics as usual and who now threaten to upend the race for the presidency.
Mr. Trump, a real estate mogul from New York, won the Republican primary, according to CNN, receiving 35 per cent of the votes. The results transform Mr. Trump, a divisive figure whose positions and style have attracted some voters while repelling others, into the leader of the race for the GOP nomination.
Mr. Sanders, a Vermont senator and self-described socialist who railed against income inequality, has scored a towering win over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, taking 58 per cent of the early votes counted in the Democratic primary, compared with 40 per cent for Ms. Clinton.
Five Republican candidates – Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – were scrambling to secure second or third place, which would give them reasons to stay in the race.
Mr. Kasich came in second place with 16 per cent of the votes counted. Mr. Cruz, Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio were virtually tied, with 12 per cent, 11 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, according to CNN.
Mr. Trump’s victory places the Republican Party in a conundrum.
Much of the party’s so-called establishment would prefer a more mainstream candidate to take on the eventual Democratic nominee. But none of those candidates has succeeded in attracting a critical mass of voters to counterbalance the appeal of Mr. Trump, on the one hand, or Mr. Cruz on the other, a Tea Party firebrand who won last week’s Iowa caucuses.
Prior to Tuesday’s primary, Ms. Clinton’s camp had sought to tamp down expectations, arguing that the fact that Mr. Sanders hailed from neighbouring Vermont gave him a kind of home-field advantage in New Hampshire. By fulfilling expectations for a sizable victory, Mr. Sanders showed his campaign has staying power and the capacity to mobilize voters, particularly those younger than 30.
Mr. Trump’s triumph underlines the durability of his candidacy, observed Mike Cuzzi, a Democratic strategist who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. If Mr. Trump “can pull off a substantial lead in a moderate Republican state like New Hampshire, I think he has the potential to win just about anywhere.”
Primary day dawned cold and sunny after a snowstorm hit the state on the last day of campaigning. Mark Guevin, 52, woke up convinced that he was going to cast his vote for Mr. Bush. Then he and his wife, Wendy, headed to breakfast at the Airport Diner in Manchester. Sitting at a nearby table was Mr. Trump, who gamely signed autographs, posed for selfies and peeled off cash tips for the restaurant’s staff. “After having breakfast with the guy, I’m going to give him a shot,” Mr. Guevin said.
Other voters expressed a similar desire to take a risk on Mr. Trump, whose unconventional campaign is like nothing in recent political memory. Ted Kitsis, 55, said that he made up his mind between Mr. Trump, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz just before he voted late Tuesday afternoon in the town of Bedford. “I don’t see Washington being fixed by people in Washington,” he said.
But many other Republican voters voiced an aversion to Mr. Trump. A Trump win would be “an absolute disaster,” said Robert Corribeau, 78, as he exited a polling station in the town of Hooksett. “You can’t be a bully in politics, you have to have consensus.”
Mr. Trump is a “borderline demagogue” added Matthew Healey, 45, after casting his vote for Mr. Christie of New Jersey at a high school in Bedford. While the thought of Mr. Trump as the Republican nominee or even as president was concerning to him, Mr. Healey tried to take the long view. “It will be a moment in time that will say something about how America is feeling and hopefully we can learn from it.”
Julia Knowlton, 56, said that she and her two daughters were casting their votes for Bernie Sanders. Mr. Sanders was the candidate whose views most closely resembled her own philosophy. “It will be a great thing to have someone with these beliefs and ideals running for president,” said Ms. Knowlton, who was born in Montreal but has lived in New Hampshire for three decades. “It gives people more of an option than a standard politician.”
Ms. Knowlton said that if Ms. Clinton were the eventual Democratic nominee for president, she would certainly vote for her in November. But “for right now, I voted with my heart.”
For supporters of some of the Republican candidates, Tuesday’s results were sure to bring disappointment. Mr. Christie will face pressure to drop out of the race if the early results hold and he receives only a single-digit percentage of the vote. Mr. Rubio, too, could face questions about his candidacy after his strong finish in Iowa appeared to melt away in New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, two other non-mainstream Republican candidates – former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon Ben Carson – each received less than 5 per cent of Republican votes, according to early results, and are expected to withdraw from the race in the coming days.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Feb. 09, 2016 8:15PM EST
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 09, 2016 10:47PM EST