The big winner in New Hampshire last night wasn’t even on the ballot. Michael Bloomberg was sitting on his booster seat in his upper east side apartment wringing his hands. Bloomberg fanned speculation over the weekend that he is mulling a centrist independent presidential candidacy if the two major parties nominate extremophiles. It was obviously perfect timing.
Last night the socialist Bernie Sanders won the “Live Free or Die” state, while Donald Trump made the strongest argument against democracy since Alexander Hamilton at the Constitutional Convention. Trump’s victory speech was a meandering experience, equivalent to interviewing the player of the game right after a walk-off:
I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, remember that. Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9% and 5% unemployment, the number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently as high as 42%… So we’re gonna (sic) take care of the economy. We’re gonna (sic) take care of jobs. We’re gonna (sic) take care of all the things that I said. Our border. Everything. Healthcare, it’s going to be so great. Remember this about Obamacare, people are forgetting, but now they’re miserable, because it’s going up 45%, 35%, 55%; it’s totally out of control. Probably sinks of its own volition in 2017, unless the Republicans give it another, I mean. What’s going on? What’s going on?
– Donald Trump, suffering from Broca’s aphasia after winning New Hampshire
What is going on Donald? I’m absolutely positive he has no idea. John Kasich put in a yeoman’s effort in the Granite State, giving 106 town hall meetings across the state, and gave a second place speech that can only be described as un-Trump-like:
We are all made to change the world. We are all made to be a part of the healing of this world. If we would just slow down and heal the divisions within our own families and be willing to listen to the person that lives next door, when you’re in such a hurry to get out of the driveway or get out of the shopping center; if you could just slow down, look them in the eye and give them a hug… Our hearts can change America.
– Ohio Gov. John Kasich
Kasich will have to attack Bush; it’s his only viable option. There’s only enough room in the GOP primaries for one compassionate conservative in normal years, let alone 2016. Jeb (!) delivered a deliciously spiteful blow to Marco Rubio last night, lifting himself off the turf by pushing his fellow Floridian’s face into the mud. Although, Marco kept it close enough to register 10% and earn delegates in a humiliating 5th place in the moderate friendly northeast. The evolution of the race cannot progress any further until Bush or Rubio vanquishes the other. Neither can live while the other survives. Fortunately for Rubio, Jeb no longer has his attack dog Chris Christie, who’s headed back to New Jersey, to do his dirty work. The longer it takes for the establishment to coalesce the more delegates Cruz and Trump will swallow.
Cruz, representing the right, and Trump, representing singular first person pronouns everywhere, will continue to spar overtop a broken center as we approach the most glorious primary of them all: South, hotbed of secession, Carolina. South Carolinians like their competitions as dirty as they get (they name their beloved sports teams after cock fighting), and they like their political intrigue even dirtier. In 2000, George W. Bush released an anonymous and fake poll into the field just two days before the South Carolina Primary asking voters if they would still vote for John McCain if they found out he had fathered an illegitimate black child. (I love absolutely everything about that sentence) I guess W’s team was just curious about the hypothetical.
People are flying home in body bags after South Carolina, they always do.
Democratic candidates aren’t going south to Dixie, they’re headed west to Nevada. There, for the first time, presidential candidates will face non-white voters in substantial numbers. The large Hispanic voter population will probably favor Clinton, who desperately needs some good news. Bernie Sanders had the victory of his career last night in New Hampshire. The results are still being counted up, but Bernie edged near 60% of the vote and drove Clinton down into the 30’s. Such a resounding victory might provide him enough momentum to make Nevada, then South Carolina 7 days later, close.
There are two games at play: The momentum game that unfolds first as candidates try to eliminate competition and snowball support across the country, and the delegate game that requires patience and a strategy that focuses on states and precincts that have more bang for their buck. In 2008, Senator Clinton saved her campaign with a huge victory in New Hampshire over Senator Obama, but only tied him in delegates. In 2016, Secretary Clinton was massively defeated, but will only lose by 3-5 delegates to Senator Sanders out of the 2,382 needed to procure the nomination. Hillary’s election night speeches from those two contests demonstrate her evolution and highlight her current struggle to frame her candidacy:
Of course, the first was a triumphant victory speech and the other an embarrassing loss, but the differences in rhetoric are hard to ignore. The momentum game ends on March 1st, Super Tuesday, when regional and demographic preferences solidify. Sanders must now show he has appeal to western and southern Democrats. Nevada and South Carolina should be interesting.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Democratic South Carolina Primary was 4 days after Nevada, but it is a full week later.