By Miriam Raftery
Photo, left: Bernie Sanders, by Troy Page; Photo, right: Donald Trump, by Gage Skidmore
February 10, 2016 (San Diego) – Last night’s presidential primary in New Hampshire proved historic on several fronts. By huge landslides, voters in both Democratic and Republican parties cast their ballots for candidates running outside the mainstream political framework: mavericks Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Sanders is also the first Jewish candidate ever to win a presidential primary.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pulled in 60% of the vote to win the Democratic primary, trouncing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who got 38%. Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, is running on a platform of closing the wealth gap by reining in Wall Street, taxing the rich and providing free healthcare for all.
On the Republican side, billionaire businessman and former reality TV show host Donald Trump won with 35% of the vote. Ohio Governor John Kasich took second at 16% in an upset over the Iowa caucus winner, Senator Ted Cruz, who got 12%, narrowly edging out Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who had 11% and 10% respectively. Other candidates placed in single digits, with 100% of precincts now reported.
To quote Trump’s favorite phrase, this is “huge.” He has run on a promise to “make America great again” and restore economic prosperity, appealing, like Sanders, to disillusioned voters fed up with a political system that too often seems not to represent their interests.
But Trump has drawn criticism for his brash tone and overtly racist and sexist remarks, as well as lack of detail in many of his proposals. Trump has promised to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and make Mexico pay, however the Mexican president has said that won’t happen and Trump has offered on insights into how he believes he could make that a reality.
Sanders, in a victory speech, stated, “We have sent the 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."
The feisty Trump, at a rally after his big win, made mock boxing jabs and promised, “Tomorrow, boom, boom!”
Both Trump and Sanders were polling well ahead in New Hampshire, a state known for its fierce independence. Perhaps the biggest surprise to some was the strong showing by Kasich, who is positioned as more moderate than most of the other GOP candidates on some issues, though not others.
Kasich has indicated he believes climate change is real and supports expanding Medicare. He would consider immigration reforms rejected by other candidates. However as Governor, he signed some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, including restricting access to abortion for rape victims.
Clinton’s weak showing came as a surprise to some pundits, though she has been under fire in the past week for taking hefty speaking fees from Goldman Sachs as well as revelations that the FBI is investigating the controversy over classified emails found on her computer server. Sanders beat out Clinton in nearly every demographic in New Hampshire, except for those making over $200,000 a year.
Some critics have faulted Sanders' plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and claim his spending goals are unrealistic. Sanders raised over $6 million the morning after the primary, however, suggesting he has struck a chord with manyh Americans and his momentum may continue beyond his home region of New England. But Clinton, the party insiders' favorite, has the advantage of many super-delegates already locked up.
Next up, candidates head to South Carolina and Nevada, sites of upcoming primaries later this month. But the big battle will come in March, when 31 states hold their primaries or caucuses.
California’s primary won’t be until June, meaning California voters won’t have the opportunity to cast ballots for many of the candidates being weeded out (several have already dropped out including Republicans Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee as well as Democrat Martin O’Malley), but may play the role of kingmaker if the race remains in contention come June.