2016 Election

Presidential candidates: South Carolina, here we come

Story highlights

  • The key second place spot in the Republican contest went to Ohio Gov. John Kasich
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio blamed his poor showing on negative media coverage of his performance in Saturday's debate

(CNN)The relentless march of the White House race headed south Wednesday, following a tumultuous New Hampshire primary that left both parties facing a long, punishing process to choose their nominee.

Republican Donald Trump basked in the glory of a win he promised would be the first of many, while a poor finisher in the Granite State, Marco Rubio, showcased a looser approach after an over-programmed debate performance raised questions about his readiness. One-time front-runner Jeb Bush was happy to still be fighting while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former businesswoman Carly Fiorina suspended their campaigns.
    Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, triggered a fundraising avalanche and plotted a nationwide campaign after his rout of Hillary Clinton, who was left with fundamental questions about her lack of appeal to young Democrats.
    The New Hampshire primary has often acted as a winnower of presidential fields. But in 2016, by elevating anti-establishment crusaders like billionaire businessman Trump and self-described "democratic socialist" Sanders, it administered a sharp shock to the political elites and left more chaos than clarity in its wake.
    Republicans battle for second place in NH
    Republicans battle for second place in NH


      Republicans battle for second place in NH


    Republicans battle for second place in NH 02:35
    The GOP establishment is no nearer finding a champion to halt Trump, whom many party leaders fear could cost them the White House, and Texas Sen. Cruz, who is viewed with deep disdain by many of his peers in Washington.
    Former Secretary of State Clinton, for her part, must contemplate whether to make changes to her campaign structure and her message, or to place her trust in the Southern-state firewall her aides have long maintained that Vermont Sen. Sanders would be unable to crack.
    With all Republican votes counted, Trump had 35%, ahead of Kasich at 16% and Cruz with 12%. Bush came next at 11%, just over 1,000 votes ahead of Rubio, who also hit 11% in a disappointing showing after his strong third place in Iowa last week. Christie was sixth at 7%, a finish that left him without an apparent path to carry on.
    Sanders won the Democratic race by nearly 60,000 votes -- 60% to Clinton's 38%.
    The next Republican contest is on February 20 in South Carolina, the same day that Clinton and Sanders clash in the Nevada caucuses. The following Tuesday, GOP voters make their choice in Nevada, while the Democratic primary in South Carolina is on February 27.
    Clinton and Sanders meet for what is likely to be a contentious PBS "NewsHour" Democratic debate that will be simulcast on CNN Thursday night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while remaining GOP candidates have their own showdown in Greenville, South Carolina, on Saturday.
    Republican elites Wednesday were digesting the reality that Trump, a former reality TV star, had defied skeptics and turned his polling numbers in the primary into a thumping victory, a performance that offers new credibility to his wide leads in other states.
    "I had these massive poll numbers but you never know if they're going to be real. You just have to say, 'Well, what does this mean?' But they turned out to be real," Trump said on Fox News' "Fox and Friends."
    Trump was heading to South Carolina, the next stop in the GOP race, for an early evening rally.
    The New Hampshire runner-up, Ohio. Gov. John Kasich, flew to South Carolina as well, but is also looking past the Palmetto State to contests in places like Michigan, Illinois and his own home base that vote in March and may be more receptive to his compassionate conservative message.
    "I am starting to really think we are on to something," Kasich told reporters on his campaign plane. "I am starting to really think that the positive nature of a campaign can be very effective. I am starting to think it could be true."
    Kasich backers said that the Ohio governor had given himself breathing room on Tuesday and did not need to do as well on February 20 as he did in New Hampshire.
    "He doesn't have to go into South Carolina and do what he did here," Bruce Berke, a lobbyist who has been advising Kasich in New Hampshire, told CNN.
    Rubio, a Florida senator, delivered another mea culpa for his poor debate performance and conducted a unusually long and free-wheeling 45-minute session with reporters on his plane, in which he took sharp shots at Trump and Bush.
    "I don't think anyone is going to wrap this up in South Carolina or Nevada. This is a unique election," Rubio said, in a reflective and more personal appearance than has often been the case throughout this campaign.
    An aide said events in New Hampshire would prompt a shift in tactics in the Rubio campaign, saying that it was time to "Let Marco be Marco."
    Rubio's tormentor on Saturday night, Christie, was back home in New Jersey, where he suspended his White House effort on Wednesday afternoon, a source close to his campaign said.
    CNN's New Hampshire coverage in 90 seconds
    new hampshire primary cnn coverage recap origwx js_00003013


      CNN's New Hampshire coverage in 90 seconds


    CNN's New Hampshire coverage in 90 seconds 01:36
    Christie had little option after he failed to make a strong impression in New Hampshire, a last stand in a campaign in which he early on lost the mantle of tough talker to Trump.
    Fiorina pulled the plug after failing to make an impression in either New Hampshire or Iowa. In a statement, she took an apparent swipe at those who say that young women should support Clinton because of her gender and also at Trump, with whom she clashed in debates.
    "Do not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate because you're a woman. That is not feminism. Feminism doesn't shut down conversations or threaten women. It is not about ideology. It is not a weapon to wield against your political opponent," the statement said.
    Bush, in contrast, prepared to move on to South Carolina, where his brother, former President George W. Bush, will appear as a campaign surrogate. His controversial White House tenure remains a challenge, but the 43rd president remains popular in South Carolina, a state that helped to revive his own campaign in the 2000 GOP primary campaign.
    The Bush camp also circulated talking points to surrogates and supporters to drive home the point that Bush is continuing to fight in a campaign that has proven to be far less "joyful" than he had anticipated.
    "As it often does, New Hampshire has reset the race. Jeb is the candidate coming out of the Granite State with momentum, a great national ground game and path forward," the memo obtained by CNN said.
    On the Democratic side, Sanders wasted little time after his stunning victory over Clinton in taking aim at her stronghold of southern states and minority voters, which pose a stiff challenge to his hopes of being a candidate with national appeal.
    He raised $5.2 million in the 18 hours after polls closed in New Hampshire, his campaign announced.
    Sanders also met civil rights activist Al Sharpton on Wednesday and discussed affirmative action, police brutality and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
    The meeting at Sylvia's, a famed New York City restaurant in Harlem, lasted about 20 minutes and was initiated by Sanders supporter and former NAACP head Ben Jealous, who told reporters there had never been any doubt about what Sanders stood for.
    "There is no candidate in this race who is fiercer in standing up for those who need allies in the struggle than Bernie Sanders," he said.
    Clinton, meanwhile, remained out of sight after her stinging defeat in New Hampshire, where both she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, previously had warm political memories.
    Her campaign tweeted mid-morning: "You're the reason we're going to win this nomination and then win this election together."
    Clinton also sent out a fundraising pitch to supporters.
    "Last night's results in New Hampshire weren't what we hoped for. But I woke up this morning ready to keep fighting for the issues you and I believe in. Are you with me?" Clinton asked.
    After New Hampshire and Iowa, Sanders now leads Clinton by 36 to 32 pledged delegates. But the former first lady has a wide lead among superdelegates -- senior party officials and office holders. Exactly 2,382 delegates are needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.
    Trump has the most delegates among Republicans with 17, ahead of Cruz with 10, Rubio with seven, Kasich with four, Bush and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson with three and Fiorina with one. Six New Hampshire delegates remain to be allocated.
    Republicans need 1,237 delegates to claim the nomination.