After New Hampshire, candidates face new ground amid reshuffled races – Washington Post

After decisive wins by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican billionaire Donald Trump in New Hampshire, the two campaigns sought Wednesday to build momentum while some others were left reassessing strategies amid reshuffled races.

While Trump did the rounds on television, Sanders headed to Harlem for breakfast with the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose backing could potentially boost the Vermont senator’s standing in the Democratic Party’s base.

Meanwhile, some of the under-performers in the Granite state — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — looked inward.

Clinton seeks to bounce back in the next contest in South Carolina, where she will likely fund friendlier turf. Christie, who placed sixth in the GOP primary, headed home to mull over whether to push ahead.

With the next primary just 10 days in South Carolina, a state dominated by staunch conservatives in the GOP primary and African Americans in the Democratic, candidates began to retool their pitches.

The two GOP governors who found their footing in New Hampshire — Ohio’s John Kasich, who came in second, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who placed fourth — argued Wednesday they had defied the pundits and would fight to regain their party’s political center.

“We need a proven leader in Washington D.C. to fix the mess, not just talk about how bad things are,” Bush said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” adding that while Trump was “a gifted politician” he “would be a disaster as our nominee.”

“My case will be national security,” said Bush, who had already arrived in South Carolina, a state that boasts a large number of active members of the armed forces as well as military retirees.

Kasich, for his part, told the hosts of NBC’s “The Today Show” that he “finally broke through” in New Hampshire because he provided an upbeat assessment about how the two parties could work together.

“I was the only one with a really positive message,” he said.

Trump, however, appeared confident that his popularity could carry him through.

While he would not identify his main rival — “I don’t want to talk about favorites. I think I’m doing well,” he said — Trump told NBC’s Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie that the crowds he had attracted in Iowa and New Hampshire would translate into votes across the country.

“There’s something going on,” he said. “There’s a movement.”

On Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” Trump took some pot shots at Bush, New York’s Daily News for its critical coverage and Clinton, whom he claimed is struggling with shrinking confidence and momentum.

With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting in New Hampshire, Trump had 35.2 percent to Kasich’s 15.8 percent.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — the winner in last week’s Iowa caucuses — was third in the GOP primary with 11.7 percent and Bush just behind at 11.1 percent. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in fifth, with 10.5 percent, and Christie had 7.5 percent. Two other Republicans, retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, trailed further behind.

The results seemed to be a good one for Trump, since it was likely that a large number rivals would continue on to the next primaries and possible divide the vote.

On the other side, Sanders defeated Clinton by the widest margin in the history of New Hampshire primaries, garnering 60 percent compared to her 34.2 percent.

“And tonight, with what it appears to be a record-breaking voter turnout, because of a huge voter turnout — and I say YUGE! — we won,” Sanders told supporters, poking fun at the New York accent he shares with Trump. The crowd had yelled “YUUUGE!” along with him.

Sanders said that the enthusiasm his supporters showed in New Hampshire could be replicated in other primaries and in a general election, with a strongly left-wing message drawing out new voters who would be left unenthused by a centrist.

“That is what will happen all over this country!” Sanders said.

Sanders is a self-identified “democratic socialist,” originally little known outside Washington and his home state of Vermont. But he built a massive movement with rousing attacks on the power of Wall Street, and a promise of a “political revolution” that would provide universal, government-run health insurance and free public-college tuition.

Sanders was also helped by Clinton’s struggles to explain why she’d used a private email server to handle government business while she was secretary of state, a scandal that has hung over her candidacy for months.

“Now we take this campaign to this entire country. We are going to fight for every vote in every state,” Clinton told supporters after conceding.

She then returned to a constant theme of her campaign, which was that she — unlike Sanders — was ready for the long slog that politics demands. “People have every right to be angry. But they’re also hungry. They’re hungry for solutions.”

Clinton’s defeat in New Hampshire was so resounding — and so long anticipated — that Clinton’s campaign conceded immediately when the polls closed in a state where she won the 2008 primary.

Exit polls reported by CNN showed that Sanders had beaten Clinton across a wide variety of demographic groups — including women, who voted for Sanders by a margin of 55 percent to 44 percent.

Another telling detail: Clinton won handily among the voters who said the quality they wanted most in a candidate was “electability.” Her advantage among that group was 81 percent to 18 percent.

But Sanders dominated in the group that said the most important quality was that the candidate “cares,” and in the group that said it was most important that the candidate was honest. In the group that cared about honesty, Sanders won by 92 percent to 6 percent, according to CNN.

Among Republicans, Trump’s victory — even though it had been predicted for weeks — is still a remarkable turnabout. Last summer, Trump had seemed like an afterthought in a race that seemed likely to be dominated by former Florida governor Bush, and the massive campaign war chest assembled to back Bush.

Trump is likely to be tested further in the upcoming contests in the South, starting with South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 20 and turning a week later to a group of “Super Tuesday” states.

One of the big New Hampshire surprises was Kasich, a pragmatic Midwesterner whose candidacy has been an afterthought nationally but who steadily built a pitch-perfect campaign for this state that roused mainstream voters with high visibility on the ground and a call to lift up people in the shadows.

Kasich says he will not “be a marshmallow” and allow his rivals to attack him.

But the race now moves south, where Kasich faces immediate hurdles to prove he is more than a one-state wonder and where Trump has found deep and enthusiastic support for his incendiary nationalistic platform. Cruz is well positioned to contend with Trump for the top spot in those states because of his broad coalition of movement conservatives and evangelicals.

The character of the Republican race appeared to change over the weekend after a Saturday debate in which Rubio faltered in the face of stinging barbs from Christie.

Rubio, now in catch-up mode, has acknowledged the debate dive, but on Wednesday tried to project resolve that he can climb back to the top.

“We’re going to get back to the fundamentals . . . We’re going to be the nominee,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show. “It is just going to take a little longer, but we are going to get there.”

Late Tuesday, Christie seemed sobered by his defeat – and contemplating an end to his campaign.

“That’s going to allow us to make a decision about how we move from here in this race. But there’s no reason to sit in a hotel in South Carolina to hear that,” Christie said.

Eilperin and Fahrenthold reported from Washington. Jose A. DelReal in Portsmouth, Jenna Johnson, Sean Sullivan and John Wagner in Concord, Michael Kranish in Plaistow, and Abby Phillip, Anne Gearan, Ed O’Keefe and Karen Tumulty in Manchester contributed to this report.


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