The two presidential candidates disdaining corporate donations won huge victories in the New Hampshire primaries Feb. 9 but the next steps in their races remain unusually open as the campaign moves this month to Nevada and South Carolina.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won a 60-38 victory in the Democratic primary over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by relying on individual donors and without a political action committee (PAC) accepting corporate donations.
Similarly, New York billionaire businessman Donald Trump (shown in a file photo) won 35-16 in a more crowded Republican field relying nearly entirely on self-funding and free media. Trump thereby defeated Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the second-place finisher, and six other candidates who accept corporate donations through their PACs.
Both winners tapped into deep voter discontent with the political, business, and media establishment in the country and in the two major parties, as illustrated by the graphic at right by Sanders supporters. They have attracted huge, enthusiastic crowds dwarfing those of their competitors, both in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
Yet the specific contours of each party’s race mean that even the winners’ huge margins failed to clarify the ultimate outcomes of the party nomination fights.
Sanders — while exceeding expectations in dealing a harsh defeat to Clinton with the help of independents allowed to vote in the primary of their choice in New Hampshire — now faces far more difficult terrain for him.
Only Democrats may participate in the caucuses in Nevada. The primary landscape is even more forbidding for Sanders in South Carolina. The Democrats-only primary electorate is 55 percent African-American. That compares to single digits for blacks and Hispanics total in New Hampshire and Iowa, where Sanders narrowly lost to Clinton in caucuses Feb. 1.
Clinton, in part via her husband Bill’s presidency, has built many relationships in the black community, especially among older leaders and voters. Sanders, though, is not without strengths, even though his affiliation as a Democratic socialist can be expected to create doubts in conservative Southern regions, where he has polled far below Clinton. But in New Hampshire exit polls he won 91-5 on the issue of being more trustworthy.
On the Republican side, Trump’s large margin erased doubts whether his campaign could deliver voter numbers matching his poll numbers without the heavy investment into broadcast advertising and “on-the-ground” voter turnout efforts that his competitors have used, aided by their PACs.
Even better for his prospects, the finishing order of his rivals means that most of them will continue their campaigns without the consolidation that had been expected among the more establishment candidates.
Following Kasich were, in order, first-term Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (1999-2007), and first-term Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, all with between 12 and 11 percent of the vote. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finished with with just 7 percent after blasting Rubio during the Feb. 6 GOP debate and focusing heavily on New Hampshire campaigning in recent months (as did Kasich and Bush).