Bernie Sanders sailed to a big win on Feb. 9 in New Hampshire.
And Donald Trump triumphed.
A week after placing second in Iowa, both men placed first in the nation’s first presidential primary. Going into the race, polls showed Trump and Sanders as the favorites, thanks to their mutual status as outsider, anti-establishment candidates.
Trump, AP reported early on Feb. 10, won New Hampshire with an 18-point lead.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, won the Granite State with a 21-point lead over Hillary Clinton.
“Together, we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington and from Maine to California that the government of this great nation belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their super PACs,” Sanders told supporters crowded into a high school gymnasium.
“Nine months ago, we began our campaign here in the Granite State,” he said. “We had no campaign organization and we had no money. And we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America, a team that defeated Barack Obama here in the Democratic primary in 2008.”
In exit polls, backers of both said they are angry with the way things are going in Washington and they’re frustrated with politics.
But it’s a long way to the nominating conventions this summer, with votes in 48 more states and U.S. territories to come.
Clinton may have all the endorsements of her party’s bold-faced names, but Sanders is winning over the young people and independents who pushed Barack Obama to the White House.
Meanwhile, many Republican Party leaders may be terrified by Trump’s ascendance, but they’ve yet to divine a way to stop the billionaire real-estate mogul.
On Feb. 10, establishment-minded Republicans from New Hampshire expressed a mix of frustration and shame that it was their state that delivered Trump’s first victory.
“I refuse to support him under any circumstance,” said Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman. “Trump would be a disaster.”
Cullen likened Trump to Pat Buchanan in 1996, the divisive former Nixon aide and conservative commentator who also won the New Hampshire primary. GOP leaders then quickly coalesced behind mainstream alternative Bob Dole, the former Republican Senate leader who went on win the nomination.
It wasn’t because they loved Dole, Cullen said, but because they feared Buchannan would embarrass the Republican Party. “The party was able to stop Buchannan 20 years ago,” Cullen said. “Today, they’re incapable of doing it.”
For those like Cullen who oppose Trump, it only gets worse. Marco Rubio’s underwhelming performance in New Hampshire calls into question the idea that the Florida senator might emerge as the GOP establishment’s favored alternative as the race heads for South Carolina and Super Tuesday.
Competing for the support of the same group of Republicans, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who quit the race on Feb. 10, along with Carly Fiorina) and Rubio won enough votes combined to handily beat Trump. But as they fought among themselves — four political insiders against the lone outsider — Trump won with ease.
John Jordan, a California winery owner who runs an outside group backing Rubio, said that “candidate logjam is all going to break in one night,” and suggested that night will be March 15, when Florida is among the states to hold their presidential primaries.
“One of them will do better than the other, and it will be impossible for the relative loser to make the case to donors that he should continue,” he said, referring to the state’s native sons, Bush and Rubio. “Donors will simply move to whoever wins that state, and it will happen nearly instantly.”
But between now and March 15 is South Carolina, Nevada and the more than a dozen states that vote on March 1. That’s time that Trump and others could use to increase their support.
Despite questions about the strength of his ground game, Trump continues to hold a commanding lead in many preference polls in the South’s first primary — and he could get a bump from his New Hampshire success.
Sanders may, too, but he has much farther to climb.
South Carolina and Nevada are more racially diverse states than Iowa and New Hampshire, which should play to Clinton’s longstanding strength with minority voters.
And unlike Republicans, Democrats give hundreds of party insiders a vote at the national convention to cast as they choose.
Among those so-called superdelegates, Clinton already has a commanding 352-delegate edge. Winning the nomination requires a total of 2,382 delegates.
“This is not a two-round boxing match, it’s a 12-round boxing match,” said Bob Mulholland, a longtime California Democratic strategist. “And I want to remind everybody that the last three presidents came in second in New Hampshire — Clinton, Bush and Obama.”