Sanders Scorches Clinton in N.H.
CONCORD, N.H. – Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old democratic socialist who says he can deliver a “revolution” to throttle the “billionaire class,” defeated Hillary Clinton in a 22-point blowout in New Hampshire after narrowly losing to the former secretary of state in the Iowa caucuses last week.
Sanders’ commanding victory, which was foreshadowed for months in polls that showed him leading by double digits, guaranteed the Vermont senator a blizzard of upcoming national media scrutiny and waves of online contributions from his exuberant supporters. Within minutes of network projections that Sanders beat Clinton, his campaign blasted an email to supporters seeking new contributions. He followed up by soliciting donations during his triumphant speech televised live shortly after 9 p.m.
“Nine months ago, if you told somebody that we would win the New Hampshire primary, they would not have believed you. Not at all,” Sanders wrote in his email. "Too bold, they would have said. Not enough money to compete against the billionaires. You showed them tonight.”
Young people, middle-aged voters, independents, Democrats, men, as well as women helped hand Sanders what could turn out to be his happiest night in national politics, according to exit polls completed around the state.
At Concord High School, while supporters shivered in the cold before entering to hear Sanders’ victory speech, the candidate accepted a congratulatory call from Clinton and passed the time with his family in a nearby gym, shooting some hoops. The Sanders rally was well under way, as supporters danced and waved placards to the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.”
“Tonight we serve notice … that the American people will not continue to accept a corrupt campaign finance system that is undermining American democracy, and we will not accept a rigged economy,” Sanders said to chants of “Bernie!” when he appeared on stage. “No, we will not allow huge tax breaks for billionaires. We will not allow huge cuts to Social Security, veterans’ needs, Medicare, Medicaid and education.”
With 24 delegates up for grabs, New Hampshire is not decisive in a nomination battle in which a Democratic candidate must win 2,383 delegates out of 4,764 expected at the party’s national convention in Philadelphia in July.
Nonetheless, Clinton’s thumping is a come-down for the Democratic Party’s front-runner, who immediately turned her energies to nailing down a decisive win this month to quiet doubts among her big-dollar donors and establishment Democrats who worry that a GOP nominee will be tougher to outpace than the socialist who has pulled Clinton’s policy agenda to the left.
Thanking her supporters before Sanders spoke, the former New York senator repeated that she and her rival agree about Wall Street’s excesses and the corrosive impact of money in politics, but she said the argument they are having is about how best to accomplish worthy goals. “I know how to do it,” she said to cheers.
“People have every right to be angry, but they’re also hungry,” Clinton continued in a voice husky from overuse. “They’re hungry for solutions. What are we going to do? That is the fight we’re taking to the country. … Who is the best change-maker? Here’s what I promise: I will work harder than anyone to actually make the changes that make your lives better,” she said, smiling and embracing President Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton, who stood by her side.
Clinton won the Granite State primary in 2008 after being handed a defeat in Iowa by Barack Obama and John Edwards. Since the start of her 2016 bid, her campaign team sought to narrow Sanders’ edge in New Hampshire, privately projecting that it was possible he could win in his “backyard” before they forecast he would run out of steam in populous and competitive states in the West, Midwest and the South.
Clinton will seek redemption with appeals to Latino voters in Nevada Feb. 20 and African-American Democrats in South Carolina Feb. 27. And having underestimated Sanders’ talents on the stump, in ground organization, and in the money chase, Clinton plans to reassess whether her message and assumptions will pay dividends, as expected, by spring. By Friday, Clinton will appear in South Carolina, and by the weekend, she will campaign in Nevada.
“I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people,” she said Tuesday night. “Even if they are not supporting me now, I am supporting them.”
Clinton also will think anew about her appeal among women, a demographic she counted on in 2008 and hoped to bank on again in her second bid for the White House. Polls suggest Clinton has a persistent problem with voters who don’t trust her and don’t believe she cares as much as Sanders does about their everyday worries. Younger women, in particular, shrug off the notion that the first woman president is important to governance, or has to be Clinton.
Margot Phelps of Londonderry, N.H., told RealClearPolitics she likes Sanders’ motivations and aspirations.
“I refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton,” she said in an interview Monday. “I don’t really trust her, and I feel as though she would throw anyone under the bus to further her career. For me, it’s not necessarily because of the policies [Sanders] is putting forth, but that he’s running for the right reason, which is to be a public servant.”
In an interview this week, Clinton said she and her team plan to take stock.
"We’re moving into a different phase of the campaign,” she told MSNBC. “We’re moving into a more diverse electorate. We’re moving into different geographic areas. So, of course it would be malpractice not to say, 'OK, what worked? What can we do better? What do we have to do new and different that we have to pull out? '"
Analysts will examine whether Sanders’ message and strategy were responsible for capturing New Hampshire progressives and independents, and dominated against long odds in Iowa, or if Clinton’s results indicate a fundamentally flawed candidate. The answer may be a bit of both.
The two rivals will debate again Feb. 11 in Milwaukee in an event broadcast by PBS and CNN.
Asked to find a word that describes Sanders, Brad Hubsch, a Dartmouth University student from Los Angeles, told RCP in Concord that Sanders is “consistent.” Clinton, he said, is “out of touch,” especially when it comes to young people. He said her opinions and positions on issues changed, while Sanders “has changed the dialogue, changed politics.”
Sanders’ appeal as a political revolutionary does not mean his admirers would spurn Clinton if she becomes the party’s nominee. Dan Korff-Korn, a Dartmouth student from New York City, said in an interview that he admires Sanders as a candidate who is both unpretentious and ethical. But he joined Hubsch in saying he would vote for Clinton over a Republican if Clinton captures enough delegates to become the nominee.
Peter Browne, a retired science teacher from London, N.H., said he, too, would support Clinton if Sanders doesn’t go the distance. “Six months ago, I was for Clinton,” Browne said, “but she never budged” in resisting the restoration of Glass-Steagall restrictions on commercial banks, and he believes she has not seriously challenged the influence of wealthy donors in national politics.
Older New Hampshire voters also said Sanders’ inspirational message was captivating, reminding them of an earlier era of people-powered battles for civil rights and the anti-poverty movement. Peter Koutroubas, 60, told RCP he campaigned for Clinton in 2008, “but the Benghazi thing, she has been through the wringer on that. It just doesn’t set right with me. It’s like a suspicion of her and her motives. She’s very polished and speaks very well, but sometimes it’s a little too well. With Bernie, it’s more genuine,” he said. “He has reinvigorated the whole thing.”