MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire is supposed to be the sensible nominating contest. Its voters have a track record of correcting extremist tides ready to wash over the parties. Or as the locals like to say, “Iowa picks corn, and we pick presidents.”
But every once in a while, New Hampshire voters like to deliver a message instead. And that’s what they did Tuesday night by rejecting the two foremost political dynasties in modern American politics in favor of two anti-establishment candidates.
By picking Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, New Hampshire has sent voters in South Carolina and other upcoming primary states a pair of outside-the-mainstream politicians with vastly differing ideologies, whose messages will now be tested in unfamiliar territory, in an increasingly fast-paced political calendar.
Next, Republicans head to South Carolina to compete in the state’s Feb. 20 primary, where Trump also leads in polls, followed by Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Ohio Governor John Kasich, who won respectability placing second, has barely spent any time in the Palmetto State.
If anything, South Carolina is just as primed for Trump’s continued success as New Hampshire.
The state’s GOP primary skews toward social conservatives, much like the Iowa caucuses, but it’s more diverse with a large chunk of business-minded Republicans as well. Even if Cruz keeps up his popularity with state’s social conservatives — the source of his Iowa success — Trump has secured an ideal coalition to win that primary as well.
A few days later, Republicans will host a caucus in Nevada on Feb. 23. Not many of the remaining candidates have put much effort into the state, save former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Rubio. The results aren’t expected to make a major impact on the race for the nomination.
On paper, Hillary Clinton’s chances for a late-February rebound should be strong. Democrats compete in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 20 and in the South Carolina primary on Feb. 27.
In both states, Clinton has a strong base of support among minorities — Latinos in Nevada, and African-Americans in South Carolina.
Recent polls of the South Carolina Democratic primary show Clinton with a 30-point advantage in the state. That may seem insurmountable for Sanders, but Clinton had an even larger lead in New Hampshire as late as last summer.
And momentum can shift quickly in the days following New Hampshire — especially with Sanders riding the good feelings of a double-digit victory in New Hampshire.
That brings the candidates from both parties to March 1, when more than a dozen states will host nominating contests, including Massachusetts and several in the South. These “Super Tuesday” states dole out delegates proportionally, which means every top candidate could walk away with points on the board. As a result, it’s difficult to see how the primary is decided any time soon.
The prospect of a long fight is not good news for Clinton or any Republican not named Trump. With four different winners emerging from the first two nominating states, the pair of presidential nominations now become a war of attrition, testing both political and financial sustainability. And that’s all the more reason why New Hampshire voters — perhaps more so than any other early nominating contest — will have set an anti-establishment tone for weeks to come.
Exit polls taken for CNN found that Sanders won women voters 55 percent to 44 percent. He also won 72 percent of independent voters and 78 percent of first-time voters.
He won every age group except those older than 65 — and did especially well among younger voters.
Voters so rejected the political elite that they chose two candidates who each won their first primary ever in their respective parties. Sanders is not technically a member of the Democratic Party, and Trump, the GOP victor, most recently became a Republican four years ago.
“What happened here in New Hampshire in terms of an enthusiastic and aroused electorate . . . that is what will happen all over this country,’’ Sanders told his victory party Tuesday night.
New Hampshire has sent a startling message like this before.
In the 1968 primary, New Hampshire Democrats rejected an unpopular war by putting US Senator Eugene McCarthy within striking range of President Johnson. Eight years later, they sent another message — contempt for political corruption — by making a peanut farmer, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, a New Hampshire primary winner.
In 1992, state Republicans had also had enough, giving Pat Buchanan enough juice to scare a sitting president, George H.W. Bush.
This year, New Hampshire issued a full-throttled rejection of the political elite. A year ago, Sanders and Trump barely scored on state primary polls.
But much like those previous contests, their candidacies have been in the making for years. Trump’s victory is the next iteration of the Tea Party movement; Sanders represents the popularization of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
They are both the product of continued economic anxiety — even in New Hampshire, a state with one of the best economies in the country.