After New Hampshire, candidates face new ground amid reshuffled races

MANCHESTER, N.H. — 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 was welcomed in Harlem by the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose backing could potentially boost the Vermont senator's standing in the Democratic Party's base. Sharpton embraced Sanders before they headed to a soul food restaurant for breakfast.


Meanwhile, some of the underperformers 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 upcoming contest in South Carolina, where she will likely find friendlier turf. Christie, who placed sixth in the GOP primary, headed home to mull over whether to push ahead.


Candidates now are retooling their pitches for the contests ahead for the GOP: the Feb. 20 primary in South Carolina, a state dominated by staunch conservatives. Then comes the party's Nevada caucus on Feb. 23.

The Democrats' calendar is reversed -- the Nevada caucus on Feb. 20 and then the Feb. 27 primary in South Carolina, with its strong African-American voter base.

The two GOP candidates who found their footing in New Hampshire -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who came in second, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who placed fourth -- argued Wednesday that 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." While Trump was "a gifted politician," he "would be a disaster as our nominee," he added.

"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 "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 potshots at Bush, at the New York Daily News for its critical coverage and at Clinton, who he claimed is struggling with shrinking confidence and momentum.

With more than 94 percent of precincts reporting in New Hampshire, Trump had 35.3 percent of the vote to Kasich's 15.4 percent.

The Associated Press, citing election figures, said the rest of the field remained unchanged from the earlier tallies.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz -- the winner in last week's Iowa caucuses -- was third, the AP said, followed closely by Bush. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in fifth and Christie was sixth. Two other Republicans, retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, trailed further behind.


The results also seemed likely to help Trump in the contests ahead, since a large number of rivals would probably continue to compete and possibly 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 yelled "YUUUGE!" along with him.

Sanders wasted no time in capitalizing on his strong showing in New Hampshire, flying to New York City with his wife Jane to court Sharpton--the flamboyant civil rights leader--at a legendary Harlem restaurant. Former NAACP leader Benjamin Jealous, who recently endorsed Sanders, also attended the meeting.

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 used a private email server to handle government business while she was secretary of state, an issue 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 her 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 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 prioritized 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 -- was still a remarkable turnabout. Last summer, the race seemed likely to be dominated by Bush -- and the massive campaign war chest assembled to back the former Florida governor.

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 said 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.

The Washington Post