CNN commentators offer their take on the results of the New Hampshire primary. The opinions expressed in these commentaries are those of the authors.
Timothy Stanley: U.S. politics changing before our eyes
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump winning is not a big surprise; both polled ahead for weeks. Yet these results still feel revolutionary. These two men have defied their party establishments, done everything they weren’t supposed to do, and still won victories with substantive leads. Politics won’t be quite the same again.
But the big shock is John Kasich in second place. First, Jeb Bush led the moderate pack, then Marco Rubio. Now we have a third contender – a man who ran on experience, compassionate conservatism and a refusal to sink to the lows set by Trump.
The family I watched Saturday night’s debate with all said the same thing: “I could vote for that guy.” The question is, does he have the structure and money to last longer?
What’s striking from the exit polls is how even more ideological both parties are than they used to be – representing a polarized electorate. This makes it harder for any eventual nominee to reach out to the center ground. Iowa and New Hampshire have done long-term damage.
Moderates in both parties can look forward hopefully to South Carolina – a state that tends to prefer establishment candidates and, on the Democrat side, has a large African-American population leaning towards Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, the strength of populist feeling is palpable.
Perhaps people are looking for generational change and substantive differences between parties. A Trump vs. Sanders race would give them both. It would also probably give them Michael Bloomberg running as an independent and one of our most divided and definitive elections since 1992.
Timothy Stanley, a conservative, is a historian and columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics.”
Sally Kohn: Real test is in states that actually look like America
As a progressive commentator who leans toward Bernie Sanders, it’s tempting to make even more out of his strong showing in New Hampshire than Hillary Clinton’s supporters made out of her narrow win in Iowa. But the fact is that neither state is terribly reflective of the majority of our nation’s voters.
New Hampshire and Iowa are whiter than the rest of the country, which calls into question their disproportionate influence in being the first to weigh in on presidential primaries. Indeed, since its founding, the United States has always given this disproportionate electoral power and political influence to white voters. Even still, in 2016.
The simple fact is that the next states to vote, South Carolina and Nevada, offer a far more accurate picture of America’s demographics – and a more realistic test for all of the candidates, especially on the Democratic side. Bernie may be giving Hillary a run for her money, especially with young white women, but can he cut into her currently commanding lead with communities of color?
And how will a voting base that reflects the pluralism of America respond to the intensely anti-pluralistic demagoguery of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz? The next votes are the real test.
Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @sallykohn.
Raul Reyes: Winners gathering steam for the South?
Well, that was quick. As early as 8 p.m., news outlets were calling the New Hampshire primary for Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders. While these outcomes were expected, these candidates will face very different trajectories ahead.
Despite a second-place finish in Iowa, Trump was part of a record-breaking turnout there, and Tuesday night’s victory will send him on to races in the South and West with strong momentum. Recall that he has held multiple “yuuuge” rallies in Southern states, so he is well-positioned to gain steam in the coming contests.
By contrast, on the Democratic side, Sanders will face a tougher road in South Carolina and Nevada. These states have significant African-American and Latino voters, respectively, two groups that have been part of Hillary Clinton’s base of support. However, as the night goes on, if Sanders can increase his margin of victory in New Hampshire, he may benefit from a new round of donations – and the growing sense that he should be taken seriously as a national challenger to Clinton.
Together, the wins by Trump and Sanders reveal that in New Hampshire at least voters are ready to upend the status quo.
On the GOP side, John Kasich has managed to pull into second place. This is a testament to his optimistic campaigning and his emphasis on old-fashioned retail politics – perhaps showing that the barrage of attack ads that have blanketed the Granite State were not as effective as the 100+ town hall meetings that Kasich attended.
The loser seems to be Marco Rubio. He has dropped back in the pack after crumpling under Chris Christie’s criticism at Saturday’s debate. A sad showing for him, and a reminder that debate performances do indeed matter; CNN polling showed that 46% of Republican primary voters made up their minds in the last three days. Time for “Robot Rubio” to do a reset.
Raul A. Reyes, an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors, writes frequently for CNN Opinion. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes.
David Gergen: A trashing of political elites
Even though they have been leading by wide margins in the polls, it is still hard to believe that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump each crushed their opponents by double digits on Tuesday. New Hampshire is supposed to pick presidents, not renegade populists. It is hard to remember a key primary that has so thoroughly trashed America’s political elites.
No one can be certain where the campaigns go from here. Hillary Clinton is still favored to win the Democratic nomination – and quite possibly the general election – but she leaves the first two contests wounded and vulnerable. Her speech last night suggested she will scramble even further left. That may help secure the nomination but risks losing support in the general election.
After his stumble in Iowa, Trump is once again the man to beat on the Republican side. But who is capable of that? Ted Cruz probably has the best chance now but enmity toward him is high in the party. John Kasich earned a chance to take on Trump but to win, he must first prove he has the chops to raise money and succeed in less-friendly territory. Jeb Bush can slog on to South Carolina but must pull off an upset there. And Marco Rubio – well, that train seems stuck at the station.
The truth is that we just don’t know where this is going, but we do know that American politics won’t be the same for a long while. Until elites pay more attention to the needs of working people and our economy booms again, our politics will be volatile. That may be healthy.
David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been a White House adviser to four presidents. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. Follow him on Twitter: @david_gergen.
Tara Setmayer: What happened to Rubio?
The old political adage, that a week is an eternity in politics, has struck again. One week ago, Marco Rubio was on fire, riding high with his strong third-place finish in Iowa, almost overtaking Donald Trump. John Kasich came in eight with an abysmal 1.9%, and Jeb Bush didn’t do much better with 2.8%. What a difference a week makes. Especially one that includes a debate.
With Rubio stumbling badly in that face off, the door was opened for the cluster of establishment candidates in the middle of the pack to take advantage. Late deciders leaning Rubio broke for Kasich, giving his campaign a much-needed shot of adrenalin. How long that lasts remains to be seen, given Kasich’s lack of organization moving forward. Even Jeb Bush emerged from the doldrums with a face-saving finish in New Hampshire. Maybe Jeb should bring his mom out on the trail more often.
As for Ted Cruz, he beat expectations in a state where he wasn’t supposed to do well, which bodes well for him heading into friendlier political territory in the South.
To think Donald Trump would ever win any state – well, this is a remarkable political moment. But there’s still a long way to go. Not, however, for Chris Christie. His kamikaze attack against Rubio in the last debate may have hurt the senator, but he survived – and Christie won’t. He’s finished.
Tara Setmayer is former communications director for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, and a CNN political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @tarasetmayer.
Donna Brazile: What Clinton must do now
Sen. Bernie Sanders was expected to win big, which meant that he had to win very big in order to truly claim victory, and he did just that. With his resounding victory in New Hampshire, Sanders will have the resources and the momentum to take this race further than anyone imagined a few months ago. Whether he can take it all the way is an open question. We will learn in the weeks and months ahead as the race now moves on to more diverse states across America.
For Hillary Clinton, who lost not only Manchester, but Concord and Keene – cities that enabled her to defeat Barack Obama in 2008, it’s time for her campaign to take stock and reset its operational structure (which includes ground game, but also its conversation with voters.) If her campaign can refocus on its strengths, it is capable of a comeback.
Bernie Sanders’ victory in New Hampshire will challenge Hillary Clinton to recalibrate her message to focus on the dreams and aspirations of the left, but it must also push her to become a better campaigner.
For now, Sanders will have much higher expectations in the upcoming South Carolina, Nevada, and Super Tuesday contests. His challenge will be to show that he can outperform expectations in reaching out to a more diverse Democratic electorate.
Clinton’s biggest challenge going forward will be less to defeat Bernie Sanders than it will be to inspire and motivate Americans – especially young voters, independents and new voters – to take a different look at her candidacy.
Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for civic engagement and voter participation at the Democratic National Committee. A nationally syndicated columnist, she is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of “Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in America.”
Robby Soave: Millennials push Sanders to victory
Massive millennial support for Bernie Sanders helped propel him to a decisive and much-expected victory over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire – he won more than 80% of the under-30 crowd, according to exit polls. At least on paper, Sanders seems even more wildly popular among young voters than Barack Obama was in 2008.
He’s likely capturing some of the non-interventionist, libertarian-leaning college-aged people who last time around would have supported Ron Paul – another septuagenarian white man with a radical streak and surprising youth cred.
Now that there isn’t anyone named Paul in the race (RIP: Rand, who failed to inspire as much devotion as his father), there’s no obvious inheritor of the libertarian vote, which is split among several imperfect candidates – including avowed socialist Sanders. Ted Cruz is clearly angling for libertarian support, but his less-than-fantastic finish in the GOP contest Tuesday night suggests he couldn’t convince independent-minded New Hampshire voters to overlook his dogmatic social conservativism.
Jeff Yang: Outcome more sizzle than steak
Tonight’s results served more as a counterpoint to Iowa’s caucus results than a referendum on the actual state of the race.
In Iowa, Ted Cruz snuck out in front of The Donald by a few percentage points; Trump responded with a resounding victory in New Hampshire, beating Cruz by a far bigger margin than he’d lost the Hawkeye State. Similarly, Clinton eked out a win in Iowa over a surging Sanders, but Sanders returned serve with a much more solid victory.
And yet, because the conventions don’t count victories by state, but by delegates won, these early wins (or losses) serve up more narrative sizzle than electoral steak. After all, Iowa and New Hampshire combined make up less than 4% of the total needed to win for Republicans and less than 1% for Democratic candidates.
Trump is on top (and increasingly likely to stay there, as much as the thought causes the GOP to grimace). Sanders has the momentum, but Clinton’s huge lead in superdelegates – party elders whose votes are committed via endorsement – means that he has a much bigger mountain to climb before catching the front-runner.
There’s plenty of race still ahead, and distracting headlines aside, it’s really anybody’s game on both sides of the aisle. And that doesn’t even figure in the threat of Michael Bloomberg marching right down the middle of it.
Jeff Yang is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and a frequent contributor to radio shows including Public Radio International’s “The Takeaway” and WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” He is the co-author of “I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action” and editor of the graphic novel anthologies “Secret Identities” and “Shattered.”
Dasha Burns: What New Hampshire tells us
On the surface, it seems like we’re in a country already ripping at the seams. The two parties have grown increasingly polarized, and now surprisingly powerful forces at the far edges are tearing us further. Bernie Sanders is engaging a new demographic of voters in millennials, and re-engaging disillusioned voters with his no bullsh** frankness. And Donald Trump is capitalizing on America’s darkest anxieties in a deeply fearful and angry segment of the electorate.
The results of the New Hampshire primary paint a bleak picture of modern American sentiment toward the status quo. People aren’t happy and they’re making themselves heard through other voices – the young are using grandpa and the fearful are using a demagogue. But enrapturing as this picture may be, it might not be an accurate one.
Like watching a bad reality show, we can all admit it’s been a guilty pleasure to indulge in all the drama of this election so far. But if we turn off the TV for a second, actual reality looks a lot less sensational. Neither of these wins were a real surprise. And while the results may influence candidates’ strategies, New Hampshire does little to predict the final election outcome. New Hampshire is not representative of what will happen in Nevada or South Carolina – which have seen almost no polling – or any of the March 1 primaries.
If tonight tells us anything, it’s that we have a long way to go till November.
Dasha Burns is a writer and works as a strategist and creative content producer at Oliver Global, a consulting agency where she focuses on leveraging media and digital technology for global development.
Sahar Aziz: A polarized primary
When it was announced Tuesday night that the two candidates whose rhetoric has put them at either end of the political spectrum won the New Hampshire primaries, it confirmed one thing: We are living in a highly polarized political climate.
On the one hand, Bernie Sanders’ victory signals that liberal voters want the progressive president that Barack Obama promised, but failed, to be. On the other hand, Donald Trump’s victory shows that establishment Republicans failed to quash the insurgent tea party movement.
Should these far right and far left candidates in fact become the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, independent swing voters may well just decide to stay home next November. And that will make this already surprising presidential election all the more unpredictable.
Sahar Aziz is an associate professor at Texas A&M School of Law, where she teaches national security and Middle East law. She is a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding