Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders walks through downtown Concord, N.H., on Feb. 9, 2016.(Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Bernie Sanders has won New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Democratic primary
Tuesday. The Vermont senator now will aim for a margin of victory large enough to buffer his campaign ahead of upcoming contests in Southern states more friendly to Hillary Clinton.
Shortly after the primary was called, Sanders tweeted: "When we stand together, we win. Thank you, New Hampshire!"
While Sanders held double-digit leads over Clinton in Granite State surveys, she had hoped an aggressive push by an army of grass-roots volunteers and local politicians, such as New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, along with the star power of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, would narrow the gap.
Sanders' win in New Hampshire, which was projected by networks and the Associated Press immediately after polls close, comes a little more than one week after Clinton narrowly defeated him in the Iowa caucuses.
In a memo released as polls closed Tuesday, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook acknowledged the former secretary of State and Sanders had split the first two contests, which is an outcome, he said, "we've long anticipated" and pointed to upcoming contests in Nevada and South Carolina.
"We’ve built first-rate organizations in each state and we feel very good about our prospects for success," Mook wrote.
Sanders' win marks something that hasn’t happened in the New Hampshire Democratic primary since Gary Hart beat Walter Mondale in 1984 — an insurgent defeating a party favorite backed by significant institutional support, said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.
“He should get due credit for that,” Scala said before Sanders win was official. “New Hampshire often flirts with the insurgent and then comes back home."
If Sanders ultimately wins by 10 points or more, it means he succeeded in broadening his appeal beyond the state’s traditional independent voters to win over blue-collar, moderate Democrats. That’s a constituency that could help him in future contests in the South and the industrial Midwest.
The race remained fluid until the last minute with up to 41% of the state’s voters saying they could change their mind before casting ballots.
Tuesday’s outcome is unlikely to provide much clarity in a race that could stretch well into the spring.
“New Hampshire doesn’t answer the $64,000 question, which is how Sanders will play with minorities,” said Scala. The next contests, a caucus in Nevada on Feb. 20 and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 27, will hinge on Latino and black-voting populations that remain more favorable to Clinton.
New Hampshire's result may not go down as a clear referendum on Sanders’ anti-Wall Street call for political revolution and single-payer health care versus Clinton's approach that seeks to build on programs championed by President Obama.
That’s because of voters like Don Doucette, a 67-year-old retiree who pulled the lever for Sanders.
“Not because I like him,” Doucette said. “I don’t want to see Hillary win." He added that he may vote Republican in the general election.
Sanders also can’t rely in future contests on independent voters who outnumber both Democrats and Republicans in New Hampshire and can vote in either primary.
Still, the Clinton campaign is girding for a long battle as they attempt to avoid the mistakes of 2008. This includes devoting more resources to future caucus contests like Colorado and Minnesota instead of focusing only on delegate-rich states like Ohio and Florida.
The campaign is also tamping down news reports of potential staff upheaval after a razor-thin win in Iowa last week. “There is zero truth to what you may be reading,”John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, said on Twitter regarding reports Monday about a post-New Hampshire staff shake-up.
In the closing days of the New Hampshire campaign, Clinton made a major push to drive up her support with women, who were key to her come-from-behind win in the Granite State eight years earlier. However, some of her surrogates drew criticism in a final effort to court young female voters, a group Sanders has been polling well with.
Former secretary of State Madeleine Albright, seemingly in jest, said on Saturday, "There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other."
Contributing: Chrissie Thompson, The Cincinnati Enquirer
(Copyright © 2016 USA TODAY)