MANCHESTER, N.H. – Donald J. Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont harnessed working-class fury on Tuesday to surge to commanding victories in a New Hampshire primary that drew huge turnout across the state. The success by two outsider candidates dealt a remarkable rebuke to the political establishment, and left the race deeply unsettled.
Trump, the wealthy businessman whose blunt language and outsider image have electrified many Republicans and horrified others, benefited from an unusually large field of candidates that split the vote among traditional politicians like Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who finished second, and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.
But Trump also tapped into a deep well of anxiety among Republicans and independents in New Hampshire, according to exit polling data, and he ran strongest among voters who were worried about illegal immigrants, incipient economic turmoil and the threat of a terrorist attack in the United States.
With more than 70 percent of the precincts reporting, Trump had received more than 34 percent of the vote, and Sanders approached 60 percent.
The win for Sanders amounted to a powerful and painful rejection of Hillary Clinton, who has deep history with New Hampshire voters and offered policy ideas that seemed to reflect the moderate politics of the state. But Sanders, who has proposed an emphatically liberal agenda to raise taxes and impose regulations on Wall Street, drew support from a wide cross section of voters – even edging Clinton out among women, boosted by his appeal to younger women.
In a punchy concession speech, held in the same college gym where she held a victory party in 2008, Clinton tried to look beyond New Hampshire and pledged to fight for the needs of black, Hispanic, gay and female voters – members of the coalition that she believes will ultimately win her the nomination.
“Now we take this campaign to the entire country,” Clinton said. “We’re going to fight for every vote in every state,” she added, continuing, “I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people.”
While Sanders led New Hampshire polls for the last month, and Trump was ahead here since July, the wave of support for both men was nonetheless stunning to leaders of both parties who believed that in the end, voters would embrace more experienced candidates like Clinton or one of the Republican governors in the race. Yet the two men won significant support from voters who felt betrayed by their parties and were dissatisfied or angry with the federal government.
At his victory party, Sanders, flashing a wide, toothy grin, pointed to the large voter turnout as evidence that only he could energize the Democratic electorate to defeat the Republicans in November.
“Together we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California,” Sanders said. “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 and their super PACs.”
Beyond Trump, four Republicans were clustered together, each receiving less than 20 percent of the vote. Kasich captured a surprise second-place finish thanks in large part to support from voters who described themselves as moderates and independents and were charmed by his pragmatism and his upbeat campaign. Effectively skipping Iowa, Kasich spent 62 days in New Hampshire, holding 106 town hall-style events.
But as striking as Kasich’s surge may have been, Sen. Marco Rubio’s fall was more so. Rubio initially appeared to be capitalizing on his strong finish in Iowa, rising in the polls here, but a disastrous debate performance Saturday appeared to halt his momentum. Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Bush – whose campaign was all but left for dead after a series of poor debate performances and staff cutbacks – were bunched together in early returns.
Trump won pluralities of both Republican and independent voters. At his exuberant victory party at a banquet hall here, people waved foam fingers reading “You’re hired!” or “Make America great again!” as he offered thanks to his late parents and to the “beautiful” state of New Hampshire.
“We’re not going to forget you,’’ Trump told the crowd. “You started it; remember you started it.’’
In the Republican race, with Cruz winning the leadoff Iowa caucuses and Trump prevailing here, the political establishment is confronted with two leading candidates who party leaders think would lose badly in a November general election. Trump has never held elected office and was not even a registered Republican this time four years ago.
For the Democrats, Sanders’ popularity with liberals, young people, and some women and working-class white men has underscored potential vulnerabilities for Clinton in the nominating contests ahead. She is now under enormous pressure to prove that her message can inspire and rally voters, and she has gone so far as to promise to rethink and adjust her campaign strategy in hopes of connecting better with Democrats, including women, whom she has long viewed as her base.
Several advisers to Clinton said they were especially concerned about her support among women – the group that provided her margin for victory in the 2008 New Hampshire primary. The Clinton strategy depends on her beating Sanders among women and attracting large numbers of minority voters, like Hispanics in Nevada and African-Americans in South Carolina. Those states hold the next Democratic contests, later this month.
Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have built robust political operations in those next states, but Sanders advisers say momentum is on their side after the New Hampshire victory and a near-tie in the Iowa caucuses. Sanders is also hoping that his proposals for a $15 minimum wage and a breakup of big banks will find support in vote-rich Las Vegas and Reno, where many people earn low wages and lost homes to banks after the 2008 financial crisis.
The unaffiliated New Hampshire voters who participated in both party primaries – and who supported Trump and Sanders in sizable numbers – appear to have found those candidates’ anti-establishment messages to be an asset.
Trump disregarded the time-honored New Hampshire traditions of lavishing personal attention on voters. Instead, he flew in and out of the state on his private jet when the weather cooperated, held raucous rallies, and won support by faulting immigrants who entered the country illegally for crime and job losses, proposing a temporary ban on Muslims to prevent terrorism. He may have held fewer events here than any other Republican candidate except Ben Carson, but his voters cared little.
“I don’t know what will happen with Mr. Trump,” said Hank Golec, 54, of Pelham, who attended Trump’s victory party. “But Mr. Trump says what everyone’s thinking.”