Now that a few days have passed since the New Hampshire primary we can take stock of what the event means in the context of the wider election. If you hadn’t already heard the winners were Bernie Sanders for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans, both of which won by substantial margins. For many reasons the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary aren’t representative of the result of the wider election, however it’s also worth pointing out that these early states do set the tone of the rest of the campaign.
The primary concluded with the result that the polling had indicated, but the specifics of the result were still shocking to everyone in the media, including myself. The Republican race ended with Donald Trump winning by over 20% with Ohio Governor John Kasich finishing second ahead of Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in third, fourth, and fifth respectively. This result in New Hampshire shows three things for the Republican Party, especially when the previous result in Iowa is taken into account: Donald Trump is the front-runner for the GOP nomination; the only way to stop Trump getting the nomination is for all the moderates to coalesce around one candidate; and the Tea Party is divided as to who they should support.
The result in Iowa showed that Ted Cruz was the preferred candidate of evangelical Christians and Tea Party conservatives but the result in New Hampshire showed that not only does this preference vary massively in other parts of the country, there are many people that are content with voting for the more moderate candidates. The problem for the GOP is that all these things contradict themselves and make electoral success in November totally impossible.
Moderate Republicans will not support Ted Cruz for president, and if they do then they will be shown to value their party over their philosophical principles. If the Tea Party support Cruz, establishment Republicans will find it difficult both ideologically and politically to support his candidacy. Yet, if an establishment candidate is the nominee supporters of Ted Cruz or Donald Trump will not take kindly to Jeb Bush trying to become president as they see him as insufficiently conservative. At this point in time the GOP is totally divided. Everyone in the media is talking about how a run for president by Michael Bloomberg would gift the race to the GOP, but if an establishment Republican won the nomination, not only would Bloomberg not get involved, but many on the far-right wouldn’t get behind him.
The Democratic race, however, I believe to be much more interesting. Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary by 22 points, garnering 60% of the vote compared with Hillary Clinton’s 38%. What has been interesting is how after the fallout from Iowa the media have changed the narrative from ‘Clinton is the obvious choice of candidate and anything else is insane’ to ‘it’s a two horse race, so keep watching our coverage’. But irrespective of political ideology nobody can deny that 2016 is not a normal election.
It is important to state that with two states down Bernie Sanders is performing much better than the mainstream media had predicted, but one of the things I didn’t understand was their justification for Sanders’ success. Media figures kept emphasizing that Bernie Sanders was from the neighbouring state of Vermont and therefore he was the frontrunner. Not only was Sanders not the frontrunner, it seems to imply that Sanders only won because people knew who he was. To which point I would say: “and?”. How is writing off Sanders success because he was well known in New Hampshire anything other than proof that people support his policies when the know what they are?
In 2008 the Democratic primary was not decided by the results of the two early states, however it was significantly impacted by the momentum that these two states generated. With Sanders essentially tied in Iowa and comfortably winning in new Hampshire, the momentum is with the Sanders campaign. Having said that, Clinton’s advantage in Nevada and South Carolina is such that this momentum may not be enough to put him over the top.
The New Hampshire primary, much like Iowa, is not significant because of the results that they throw up; it is significant because of the media coverage that results bring and the momentum that they can create going into Super Tuesday. It shall be interesting to see how the results of Nevada and South Carolina shape up, but I fervently hope that the media each of the candidates the same amount of coverage and scrutiny.