2016 US primaries: #4 – New Hampshire results

by Jackie_South on February 14, 2016

NH iconTuesday’s New Hampshire primary election was the last thing that either of the party establishments wanted, not only because of the victories of somewhat maverick insurgent candidates but also the nature of those victories.

For the Democrats, Bernie Sanders not only beat Hillary Clinton, he trounced her. On the Republican side, Donald Trump not only won a clear victory but left a field of other candidates without a clear challenger to him.

You can read about the context of the election in our previous post, but the victories of both Sanders and Trump had seemed likely. But Sanders’ victory over Clinton was larger than the polls predicted and Marco Rubio, who had looked likely to come second from the polls and his momentum from Iowa, and in doing so become the preferred establishment candidate, crashed into fifth place after a disastrous TV debate.

1. The Democrats


NH 2016 D pie

The town of Waterville Valley, in the east of Grafton county in the White Mountains, may be a pleasant ski resort but is a small place: a small village by British standards with a population of 247. But it was remarkable in Tuesday’s results: it was the only place in the entire state where Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders, and then only by 55 votes to his 54.

That is an indication of the scale of Bernie Sanders victory over Hillary Clinton: a lead of over 22 percent, exceeding the 14% lead indicated by the average of polls. Clinton’s campaign organisation and money were not able to withstand the popularity of Sanders’ grassroots-based campaign.

Whilst more women than men (55%-45%) voted, two-thirds of the men that did backed Sanders. Clinton won among pensioners, but Sanders led in all other age groups, with a staggering 85% of the vote among those in their late-twenties. Clinton won among the 8% of voters lucky enough to be earning more than $200,000 a year, but Sanders won among other income brackets, doing better the less was earned.

Given that the socialist Sanders has never stood as a Democrat before, it is unsurprising that he did well among voters who see themselves as independents rather than Democrats: 73% support in a group that made up 40% of those that voted. But in case you think that might be because of supporters from other parties trying wrecking tactics, it should be noted that more people voted in the Republican primary.

Perhaps a little peculiar, unless you understand the local context, was the voting pattern of gun owners. 30% of those voting in the Democrat primary owned one, of which 69% voted for Sanders. In fact, it is one issue where Sanders departs from the usual position of the liberal left, given that he comes from a rural state. My guess is that many of those gun-owners live in the more rural parts of New Hampshire, along the border with Sanders’ Vermont.

NH 2016 D map

NH 2016 D chart

On the top four issues – economy, inequality, healthcare and terrorism – Sanders led, albeit with tighter margins on the latter two issues. Inequality, Sanders top suit, was the key issue for 32% of voters but 90% of Democratic primary goers (including those independents) thought that the US economy favoured the rich. 78& of the voters wanted income tax increases for those earning over $250k a year.

And whilst voters wanting an electable candidate plumped for Hillary, only 12% of voters saw that as their top issue. The top characteristic Democratic primary-goers wanted was honesty: Bernie secured 92% of voters who put that on the top of their list.

Perhaps even more worrying for Clinton was that 37% of primary-goers did not believe that she shared their values. 61% felt let down by federal government when Clinton is pitching as the continuation of Obama’s policies. Those facts, along with the fact that more Republicans voted for Trump than Democrats voted for her, create problems in this swing state for November’s election if she is the candidate.

All of this must be the more galling being in a state that has been good to the Clintons in the past. Hillary won here in 2008 against Obama and it was the state that made Bill ‘The Comeback Kid” in 1992.

The outcome will not stop Clinton becoming the delegate: in fact with super-delegates she gets as many delegates from New Hampshire as Sanders does. The next contests in Nevada and South Carolina (20th and 27th February respectively) favour her and she should sweep most of the states (excluding Sanders’ Vermont and possibly neighbouring Massachusetts) in Super Tuesday.

But the nature of the loss in the Granite State should worry her campaign. My advice to her? Don’t just rely on those victories in Nevada and South Carolina, work to show that you care about people on low incomes and that you want to do something about it. Rather than slick campaigning, she needs to meet some badly treated casino union activists in Las Vegas and drop in on some poor families in North Charleston.

Until she convinces people she cares, victory in November is in danger.

2. The Republicans

NH 2016 R pie

Donald Trump can put his concerns about his unexpected second place in Iowa on hold: Trump won in Iowa and his position in the polls came through on Tuesday. Unlike Iowa, his vote turned out (slightly better than the polls suggested they would, in fact). Trump won convincingly among men and women and across all age groups.

He did particularly well amongst those that had not been to college (42%) and those on low incomes (40% of those earning less than $50k). He did equally well among those identifying as Republicans as those identifying as Independents. Like Sanders, he did particularly well among gun-owners: 40% of their vote who made up 57% of the voters.

There were two groups where his lead was tighter.  23% of voters were evangelicals and born-again Christians. He was still the top candidate with them, but on 28% to Ted Cruz’s 24%. Voters who saw themselves as moderates made up 27% of voters: 32% of them voted for Trump whilst 27% voted for John Kasich.

Like Sanders, he won in every county.

NH 2016 R map

Where does this lead the rest of the field?

Two other candidates have something to feel good about. John Kasich secured second place with a late rise following Rubio’s debate disaster: he picked up 24% of the vote of those who made their minds up a few days before the election. He came second in all but one county (Strafford) and hit 22% (to Trump’s 30%) in the more liberal-leaning Grafton County.

NH 2016 R chart

In many ways, Kasich is a good candidate: a relatively moderate governor of arguably the most important swing state, Ohio. But he has little in the way of resources and it will remain to be seen whether he can maintain his momentum. Remember, as a Mid-West governor it is not a great sign for your campaign if you were not competing in Iowa.

Ted Cruz skipped the state to concentrate on South Carolina, but still got a respectable third place and showed he still has traction with conservative evangelical voters, which will help in South Carolina, Nevada and the southern states contested in Super Tuesday. Cruz just beat Kasich to second place in Strafford County.

The others did less well. It is not clear now where Jeb Bush could make his breakthrough. He did reasonably well and was not far behind Cruz, but a fourth place after sixth in Iowa does not look convincing. The best he can hope for in the next two looks like third. South Carolina will be critical for him.

Marco Rubio had the worst night: his poor debate performance saw him drop from second to fifth place in the state, albeit only just over 1% behind third-placed Cruz. After Iowa, he looked like the candidate around whom the more moderate and establishment vote might coalesce, but that will not happen soon after this result. He now needs to rebuild his electoral stock, and he is judged to have done better in last night’s TV debate.

The man who crippled Rubio, Chris Christie, did worse, achieving 8%. He has now bowed out of the race, as has seventh-placed Carly Fiorina and ninth-placed Jim Gilmore. Eighth-placed Ben Carson however remains – South Carolina should be a better state for him than the largely white Iowa and New Hampshire.

3. Looking Forward

We now have a slight divergence in the primaries. The Republicans go to South Carolina for the primary election next Saturday (20th) and then trek west to Nevada for the caucus on Tuesday 23rd. The Democrats go in the other direction: Nevada caucus on 20th, South Carolina primary election on Saturday 27th.

For the Democrats, Clinton is favoured for both: current polling shows her 20% ahead in South Carolina. However, a Target Point poll in Nevada put her neck-and-neck in Nevada, so she is not quite home and dry there yet. After that though, she will massively win on Super Tuesday. Only two states in, she already has 468 delegates to Sanders’ 53, thanks to super-delegates.

Her bigger problem is how to engage with electors if she is to win in November and show them that she cares.

For the Republicans, polls currently show Trump with a 20-point lead in South Carolina, ahead of Cruz in second place. Not far behind Cruz, Kasich  and Rubio are fighting it out, with Rubio probably having the upper hand. Bush trails in fifth and whilst it is difficult to think of a state that should be better for Ben Carson (this is after all the Republican state that has elected the first black senator in the South in over a century and has a non-white governor) he still trails in sixth.

In Nevada, the polls suggest Trump is ahead of Cruz by around 15%, with Rubio a distant third.

At the moment, it seems difficult for Trump to be caught. The problem that the more moderate Republicans have is picking an alternative.

Second in delegates is Ted Cruz, but many moderate Republicans, particularly the grey-beards, seem more horrified about Cruz being their candidate than Trump.

Rubio might have been preferable but now looks damaged, and time is running out to redeem himself.

Kasich has a lot going for him, except money and campaign infrastructure and those are critical if he is to not come out the other side of Super Tuesday looking unviable.

Jeb Bush needs a miracle, and Ben Carson needs one on the scale of parting the Red Sea. I think Carson folds after South Carolina and Bush sometime between then and the first week in March. But Bush could still be the kingmaker in all this: his endorsement of either Rubio or Kasich is probably the last opportunity for a stop Trump candidate to emerge during the Primaries.

After that, we are either looking at a Trump candidacy or the most interesting Republican convention in living memory.


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