Primary results give parties’ establishment fits
MANCHESTER, N.H. — For Donald Trump, for one night, there was so much winning.
The billionaire political novice on Tuesday posted a decisive victory in the New Hampshire primary, a once-unthinkable first for an enterprise built on the promise of putting America on top and turning politics on its head. Restive Democrats had their own act of anti-establishment defiance, lining up behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, while delivering a broad rejection of Hillary Clinton’s second bid for the White House.
“We are going to make our country so strong,” Trump told a raucous crowd in Manchester, with typical bombast. “We are going to make America so great again. Maybe greater than ever before.”
With votes still being tallied, Trump led with 35 percent of the vote. In his wake was a field of Republicans still-struggling to break out of the pack. With about 16 percent, Ohio. Gov. John Kasich surged from relative obscurity to second-place, a feat his poorly funded campaign will struggle to replicate. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio jostled for third place, while a disappointed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie trailed behind.
The results offered little clarity to the nomination battles likely to stretch on into the spring — giving the parties’ establishment fits and testing voters’ commitment to the outsider excitement. Republicans head to South Carolina, a hotbed of tea party groups and evangelical voters that will test Trump’s staying power.
“I think they’re all really potential threats,” Trump said of his rivals Wednesday morning on MSNBC. “But I’m ok at handling threats.”
Sanders was leading Clinton by 22 percentage points, with roughly 90 percent of the vote tabulated. Democrats move on to Nevada, where Sanders will leave his New England neighborhood and try to prove his mettle with a more diverse and urban electorate.
“We have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California,” he told a cheering crowd in Concord. His campaign launched ads Wednesday in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Colorado and Massachusetts — all states where they believe Sanders can grow.
Clinton tried to show she’d heard the message.
“People have every right to be angry,” she said, as she conceded to Sanders. “But they are also hungry. They’re hungry for solutions. What are we going to do?”
A night of victory speeches from a reality TV tycoon and avowed democratic socialist was all-but unimaginable six months ago, before outsider fever gripped both parties’ search for a president. But the outcome had been brewing for months. Trump’s campaign seized the top slot in New Hampshire and never relented, despite rivals dumping millions into advertising and late signs that Rubio’s strong third-place showing in Iowa had earned him a second look.
In remarks Tuesday night, Rubio acknowledged his bungled debate performance Saturday night hurt him: “It’s on me,” he said.
Ted Cruz, the Iowa winner and a favorite of social conservatives, proved unable to win over New Hampshire’s more moderate brand of Republican. Those voters went to Kasich, who staked his campaign on New Hampshire, and declared his second-place showing an affirmation of his largely positive campaign.
“Light overcame the darkness,” he said.
A subdued Christie was heading back to New Jersey to “take a deep breath” and review whether to keep at it, he told supporters. His campaign canceled a planned event Wednesday in South Carolina.
Sanders’ win was also telegraphed for weeks, as his indictment of Wall Street and big money in politics caught fire in a state that was once considered a reservoir of good will for both Clinton and her husband. Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton won the state by 2.5 percentage points in a late comeback over then-Sen. Barack Obama.
But on Tuesday Sanders’ coalition was strikingly broad, cutting across both ideological and demographic lines, according to an exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the Associated Press and the television networks. The poll found Sanders won a majority of votes from independents, voters under 45, self-identified liberals, moderates, men, and perhaps most cutting for Clinton, who is striving to be the first woman president, women.
As she bats back allegations of mishandling classified information on her email server, Clinton struggled with voters who prioritized honesty and trustworthiness.
Asked which of the two candidates is honest and trustworthy, nearly half of voters said they think only Sanders is, while about the same proportion said they both are. Few said only Clinton is.
Clinton, former secretary of state, was strong among voters who value experience.
On the Republican side, the results zeroed in on the party’s current rift. Nearly half of voters said they preferred someone with experience in politics, while half want someone from outside the political establishment. Of those, almost 6 in 10 voted for Trump.
From New Hampshire the parties’ paths to the nomination diverge.
Nevada has been considered Clinton territory, in part because of her strong relationships to the Latino community and longtime Democrats in the state. Still, Sanders has been pouring money and staff into the state.
Republicans head to South Carolina where a more conservative electorate awaits. The state is the first in a string of southern contests that will ultimately test whether Cruz, Rubio or both can force Trump into a long process.
They will also prompt another question: whether Bush can parlay his family’s long South Carolina ties into new energy for “the long game,” as he calls it. All four of those candidates have expansive organizations in South Carolina and several Super Tuesday states.
Hennessey reported from Washington. AP writers Lisa Lerer, Ken Thomas, Holly Ramer, Steve Peoples, Julie Bykowicz, Thomas Beaumont and Julie Pace, and AP News Survey Specialist Emily Swanson contributed to this report.