The two presidential candidates disdaining corporate donations won huge victories in the New Hampshire primaries Feb. 9. But the next steps in their races remain unusually open as the campaigns move this month to Nevada and South Carolina.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won a 60-38 victory in the Democratic primary over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by relying on individual donors and without a political action committee (PAC) accepting corporate donations.
Similarly, billionaire businessman Donald Trump (shown in a file photo) won 35-16 in a more crowded Republican field by relying nearly entirely on self-funding and free media. Trump thereby defeated Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the second-place finisher, and six other candidates who accept corporate donations through their PACs.
Both winners tapped into deep voter discontent with the political, business, and media establishments in the country and in the two major parties, as illustrated by the graphic below by Sanders supporters. In New Hampshire and elsewhere, the winners have attracted huge, enthusiastic crowds dwarfing those of their competitors.
Yet the specific contours of each party’s race mean that even the winners’ huge margins failed to clarify the ultimate outcomes of the party nomination fights.
Sanders — while exceeding expectations in dealing a harsh defeat to Clinton with the help of independents allowed to vote in the primary of their choice in New Hampshire — now faces far more difficult terrain for him.
Only Democrats may participate in the caucuses in Nevada. The primary landscape is even more forbidding for Sanders in South Carolina. There, the Democrats-only primary electorate is 55 percent African-American. That compares to single digits for blacks and Hispanics total in New Hampshire and Iowa. Sanders narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses to Clinton in caucuses Feb. 1.
Clinton, in part via her husband Bill’s presidency, has built many relationships in the black community. These ties are especially strong among older minority leaders and voters. Sanders, however, has shown an edge in grass roots enthusiasm.
Sanders' self-description as a "democratic socialist" creates discomfort in conservative regions, where Sanders has polled far below Clinton (at least until he introduces himself). There is an upside, however. In New Hampshire exit polls, he won 91-5 on the issue of being more trustworthy.
On the Republican side, Trump's large margin erased doubts whether his campaign could deliver votes matching his poll numbers. He has failed to invest heavily into broadcast advertising and "on-the-ground" voter turnout efforts. His competitors have spent vast sums on such campaign methods, aided by their corporate-funded PACs.
Even better for his prospects, the finishing order of his rivals means that most of them will continue their campaigns. Consolidation had been expected among the more establishment candidates, with many pundits predicting that Rubio would take second place behind Trump in New Hampshire, thereby persuading numerous competitors to quit.
Following Kasich were, in order, first-term Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (1999-2007), and first-term Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, all with between 12 and 11 percent of the vote. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finished with with just 7 percent after verbally savaging Rubio during the Feb. 6 GOP debate. Christie focused his time and money heavily on New Hampshire campaigning in recent months (as did Kasich and Bush)."This campaign is not dead," Bush (shown in a file photo) told supporters after spending (primarily via his PAC) $55 million on the New Hampshire and Iowa races. "We're going on to South Carolina."
Christie, by contrast, is reputed to be nearing the end of his campaign's financial resources. Also, his New Hampshire finish was too low to qualify for the next GOP debate, which required a 10 percent total. Christie said he was cancelling South Carolina appointments at least temporarily while he reflects in New Jersey with his wife on the future following his sixth-place finish.
GOP contenders Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson finished far behind with 4 and 2 percent, respectively.
Rubio conceded that his debate performance Feb. 6, when he repeated his talking points like a robot, badly hurt him. He promised to do better.
Relatively well-funded and well-liked by the business and foreign policy establishment because of his hard-right views, Rubio nonetheless faces a daunting election calendar. It is hard to envision a state where he can win, at least until March. Realistically, he must win the Nevada caucuses this month for his campaign to survive.
The larger problem for Republicans who opposed the novice candidate Trump and the anti-establishment Cruz is that the double-digit finishes of Kasich, Bush and Rubio ensure that none will drop from the race immediately.
Therefore, they will continue to split the anti-Trump and anti-Cruz votes.
Kasich won a strong second-place finish in New Hampshire and was reported to be planning campaign appearances for early March in the Midwest. But his poll numbers in South Carolina and nationally are very low, as our his campaign finances even with the help of his PAC.
"We may go to Cleveland," commented NBC Chief Washington correspondent Chuck Todd, speaking of the possibility of a GOP nomination contest that could be undecided until the Republican National Convention this summer in Ohio's largest city.
A Sanders Sweep
Hillary Clinton (Gage Skidmore file photo via Flickr)
Regarding Democrats, Sanders heavily won white working class voters in New Hampshire according to exit polls. Such voters had been the backbone of Clinton's unsuccessful race in 2008 against her rival that year, Barack Obama.
Sanders won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire by its largest margin in modern history after losing the Iowa caucuses last week by the narrowest margin there in Democratic history.
"Here's what we're going to do," Hillary Clinton said during her concession speech in Hooksett, N.H. "Now we take this campaign to the entire country. We're going to fight for every vote in every state. We're going to fight for real solutions that make a difference in people's lives."
"Together," Sanders told supporters in a victory speech after what he said was a record-turnout, "we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California."
"And that is that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their superPACs."
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