The New Hampshire Primary: Sanders and Trump Dominate

© Josh Sager – February 2016

Yesterday, the voters of New Hampshire slogged through a snow storm and cast their votes in the state 2016 primary. This was the second primary contest of the season and, while it was one of the least populist races, it could have significant ramifications on the rest of the race.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Trump makes a point as he formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination at Trump Tower in New York

On the Democratic side of the ticket, New Hampshire voters delivered an overwhelming victory to Bernie Sanders. Bernie won 60.4% of the vote while Hillary won 38%, giving him the largest margin of victory (22.4%) in a New Hampshire Democratic primary since JFK obliterated Paul Fisher in 1960 (with a 71.8% margin). Almost all of the polling predicted a Bernie victory in New Hampshire (unsurprising giving the proximity to Vermont), but they dramatically underestimated the margin of victory, predicting a 9% margin.

Exit polling of the Democratic electorate drew several clear patterns which largely parallel those from Iowa.

  • The clearest dividing line between Bernie and Hillary voters was age—Bernie won 83% of the 18-29 vote, 66% of the 30-44 vote, 53% of the 45-64 vote and only 45% of the 65+ vote.
  • While self-identifying Democrats only marginally preferred Sanders to Hillary (53%-47%), approximately 73% of self-identifying independents voted for Bernie.
  • Low and middle class voters overwhelmingly supported Bernie while high-income voters marginally preferred Hillary. Bernie won between 72% and 55% of voters making less than $200K a year, while Hillary won 53% of voters making over $200K.
  • Bernie won overwhelmingly among voters whose top personal attribute was “cares about people like me” (82%) and “honest” (92%), while Hillary won overwhelmingly among voters who cared about “electability” (79%) and “experience” (84%). As I pointed out after Iowa, this split creates real problems for Hillary, as electability is easily the least stable of these characteristics, and the perception that Bernie is viable in the general could easily lead those who see this as the most important issue to switch their support.

The ramifications of Bernie’s victory in New Hampshire are hard to accurately predict. The sheer magnitude of his victory may shift perception of his general election viability, but this is highly dependent upon the coverage in the media, thus isn’t certain. Similarly, his victories across demographic groups could do a great deal to dispel the perception that Bernie is simply supported by young males, but this is also dependent upon the media. Regardless, this victory can only help Bernie and we will only know the true ramifications of this race when polling is conducted or during the Nevada primary later this month.

Hillary is likely only marginally affected by her loss in New Hampshire, as she can simply claim that it is Bernie’s home turf and that she never expected to win.

As a final note on the Democratic results, Bernie’s victory was accompanied by two amusing events: First, Bernie’s donation page crashed because there were too many donors trying to make donations for the site to function properly. Second, while waiting to make his victory speech, Bernie was caught on video playing basketball with his grandkids—even Fox News found this to be amusing (hell froze over as a Fox anchor actually uttered the words “go Bernie” on air), and the video has been circulating social media ever since.

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Trump Sweeps Field, Establishment Falls Flat

In the run-up to the New Hampshire primary, there was a general hope in the GOP establishment that a credible establishment candidate—likely Bush or Rubio—would win a close second to Trump and become the anti-Trump champion. With Trump’s “tremendous” (to borrow one of his favorite terms) victory in the primary, this establishment hope appears to have died.

Trump won 35% of a highly-split field, more than doubling Kasich, who captured 2nd place with 16% of the vote, and nearly tripling Cruz, who captured 3rd place with 12% of the vote. While Trump didn’t have as high a margin of victory as Sanders, his dominance over the field is arguably more significant given the fact that the field is so split.

Exit polls indicate that Trump won majority support across all demographics, but had particularly high levels of support among non-college educated whites. He was voted the most credible on all issues polled (immigration, the economy, terrorism, and spending) and voted the most electable, willing to “tell it like it is” and able to “bring change”—the only characteristic he lost on was “shares my values” which Cruz won by a significant 9% margin.

This exit poll also found that 65% of all GOP primary voters who participated support banning Muslims from entering the country for an indeterminate amount of time (as proposed by Trump and Cruz). Additionally, it found that 88% of primary voters were somewhat dissatisfied with the federal government and that half thought that the next president should be picked from outside the establishment.

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HuffPost pretty much nailed it on the GOP side of this race

Trump’s victory in New Hampshire could represent the brakes falling off of the runaway train that the Republican primary has become. If polling is any guide, Trump is set to absolutely dominate South Carolina (he leads by 16.5% in the RCP average) and Nevada (13% lead in the RCP average) later this month and pick up most of the Deep South states on Super-Tuesday. If this happens, he is almost certainly the GOP nominee, barring his withdrawal from the race. The one caveat to this would be the apparent lack of a ground game for Trump in some of these races, making it possible that his high polling support won’t translate into equivalent victories in some states.

Arguably, some of the most important results from the New Hampshire primary are not who did well, but who did badly. Christie has announced his intention to leave the race after coming in 6th, with a disappointing 7% of the vote, and it appears that his last act of the race was to deliver a fatal blow to Rubio. Marco Rubio appeared to be on the rise until the last debate, when Christie pointed out his inability to talk in anything but 25 second talking points, and Rubio responded by repeating his rehearsed line at least three more times. While it is hard to draw a conclusive causal link between such events, the mockery and criticisms levied at Rubio in the days between the debate and the primary appear to be, at least in part, to blame for his disappointing 5th place finish.

Coming in 4th place, Bush is barely holding onto his campaign and will likely be forced to resign in the coming weeks. He has spent an inordinate amount of money in the first two primaries and his donors are jumping ship on his failing campaign. Barring a surprise victory in Nevada or South Carolina, Bush appears to be finished.

Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina had truly pathetic showings in New Hampshire (2.3% and 4.1% respectively) and Carly Fiorina has announced that she will “suspend” her campaign (read: she is quitting the race). I would be unsurprising if Ben Carson follows suit in the coming days and have no earthly clue as to why he has stuck it out this long.

Here are links to the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump victory speeches. In my opinion, Bernie absolutely hits the nail on the head and delivers one of his best speeches ever, while Trump channels Sarah Palin (unless you are drunk, I doubt that you will get past the first 5 minutes):

2 thoughts on “The New Hampshire Primary: Sanders and Trump Dominate

  1. The NH primary has been one which has been the graveyard for candidates, to be sure. But it is hardly predictive of the national vote.For example. The last time a Dem candidate (who was not an incumbent) won the NH primary and the general election was in 1980. Over 36 years ago. And the last time a GOP candidate won the NH primary and the general election was 1988.
    This does not diminish the Sanders victory, which was impressive. But NH is a “retail” politics state. In the big states you need organization, money and the ability to pull in a more than a few IOUs. Not sure if Sanders can stand up to the Clinton organization in the long haul. We shall see.
    The GOP looks like it is shaking out to be a Trump-Cruz-Kasich race. Unless Rubio can do well in SC. I would expect the establishment to decide to dump Jeb and turn to Kasich as the most likely to win a general election. We shall see.
    (One issue that the press seems to ignore about the NH primary. Over 40% of the voters (who are “independents” can declare their party at the polls. Then change affiliation after casting their vote. I don’t know how many “cross-over” voters choose to vote against a candidate to weaken them rather than for a candidate. I have always opposed allowing non-party members from voting in primaries. )

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