Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders trounced their rivals in the New Hampshire primary, winning 35% and 60%, respectively, with nearly all votes counted Wednesday morning.
The dominance of outsider candidates in the first primary of the 2016 presidential race shows the deep discontent among voters with establishment figures and suggests that party leaders’ role in shaping the nominations has changed dramatically in just a few years.
Still, more traditional Republican candidates are jostling for position in hopes of overcoming Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who took first in the Iowa caucuses. The key second place spot in the Republican contest went to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who garnered 16% of the vote, as of early Wednesday. Cruz, seen as less likely to feature strongly in more moderate New Hampshire, still captured third with 12%.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio both took 11% of the vote, but Bush captured fourth place with a margin of about 1,500 votes as of Wednesday morning.
Kasich’s surprisingly strong showing lands him in the spotlight but also raises questions about whether he has the money, base of support and campaign infrastructure necessary to secure the nomination, particularly in a year in which outsider appeal runs so strong. While he is taking his message next to South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary on February 20, Kasich is looking beyond to Michigan and other Midwestern primaries in March.
While he credited his positive campaigning with helping to propel him to second place, Kasich declared Wednesday, however, that he’s ready for a fight.
“Somebody wants to mess with me, they’re messing with the wrong guy,” Kasich said on NBC’s “Today.” “I’m not gonna sit there and be a marshmallow and have somebody pound me. We’re not just gonna sit back and take a pounding from anybody, but at the same time we’re going to tell people what we’re for, and I think people really, really like it.”
His campaign said they were in it for the long game and that South Carolina wasn’t a key stop for them.
“He doesn’t have to go into South Carolina and do what he did here,” Bruce Berke, a lobbyist who has been advising Kasich in New Hampshire, told CNN. “He needs to go into South Carolina and participate down there and participate reasonably well. But he doesn’t have to go down there and be the story coming out South Carolina like he is tonight.”
While Kasich got a boost on Tuesday night, the vote was a setback for Rubio, who last week seemed like he might be best-positioned to claim the establishment candidate mantle after a stronger-than-expected third-place finish in Iowa on February 1.
Rubio blamed his poor showing on negative media coverage of his performance in Saturday’s debate.
“The last thing voters heard going into the booth yesterday was something bad happened on Saturday night. It made it very difficult for us to get any other message across,” he said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” Wednesday.
Candidates on both sides of the aisle were already busy trying to raise money off their showings in New Hampshire.
Sanders’ campaign, for one, raised $2.6 million between polls closing in New Hampshire and 12:30 a.m. ET, per a Sanders aide.
Trump, meanwhile, attributed part of his victory to his tough stances on trade, border security and ISIS. He likened himself to Sanders on the issue of trade on MSNBC Wednesday morning, but made the case that he could do better on the issue than the Vermont senator.
“That’s the thing Bernie Sanders and myself have in common. We know about … trade. But unfortunately, he can’t do anything to fix it where as I will,” Trump said. “The only thing he does know — and he’s right about — is that we’re being ripped off, and he says that constantly. And I guess he and I are the only two that are saying that.”
Noting that he was greatly honored by his sweeping victory in New Hampshire, Trump said he thinks he will do very well in South Carolina.
“I think we going to have tremendous success there. We were just there, and we had 12,000 people in a wonderful, wonderful arena,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Bush, meanwhile, is seizing the results in New Hampshire as a sign of revival for his flagging campaign and looking to push an advantage in South Carolina.
The campaign circulated talking points to surrogates and supporters to drive the point home.
“As it often does, New Hampshire has reset the race. Jeb is the candidate coming out of the Granite State with momentum, a great national ground game and path forward,” the memo obtained by CNN said.
And, it argued, “Jeb now heads to South Carolina where he has the strongest statewide organization, and the backing of Senator Lindsey Graham and much of his political network.” The South Carolina senator endorsed Bush after abandoning his own hopes for the presidency in December.
The candidate will also be pulling out his brother, former president George W. Bush, as a surrogate on the trail in South Carolina.
The two will focus on national security issues in the important Southern state.
“They want a commander in chief that will have a steady hand and have a backbone and will support the troops and has detailed plans on how to keep us safe as it relates to Islamic terrorism,” Bush said Wednesday on CNN’s “New Day.” “Here in South Carolina particularly, that’s an important issue.”
Hillary Clinton, for her part, remained largely quiet Wednesday following a stinging defeat in which she pulled just 38% of the Democratic vote, with almost all of the vote counted.
Her campaign tweeted mid-morning: “You’re the reason we’re going to win this nomination and then win this election together.”
The night before, Clinton urged supporters to look to the future.
“Now we take this campaign to the entire country,” Clinton said after the primary. “We are going to fight for every vote
in every state. We are going to fight for real solutions that make a real difference in people’s lives.