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 was likely prepared to call it quits.
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.
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%.
Republican elite 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.
SOURCE: Stephen Collinson