MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders swept to victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primaries, adding crucial credibility to their upstart candidacies and underscoring voters’ insistence on shaking up American politics.
While New Hampshire is known for its political surprises, Trump and Sanders led in the state for months. Still, both needed to deliver on expectations after second-place finishes in last week’s leadoff Iowa caucuses, where Ted Cruz topped the Republican field and Hillary Clinton narrowly edged Sanders in the Democratic race.
“When we stand together, we win. Thank you, New Hampshire!” Sanders celebrated on Twitter.
For some Republican leaders, Trump’s and Cruz’s victories add urgency to the need to coalesce around a more mainstream candidate to challenge them. However, it was unclear whether New Hampshire’s contest would clarify that slice of the field, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush all locked in a tight race, along with Cruz.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has staked his candidacy on New Hampshire, lagged behind the pack in early vote counts.
Sanders pulled from a broad coalition of New Hampshire voters, gathering a majority of votes from men, independents and voters under 45, as well as a slim majority of women. Clinton won the majority of those over 65 and those with incomes over $200,000 a year, according to early exit polls conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and the television networks.
Clinton’s campaign argues she will perform better as the race heads to more racially diverse states, including Nevada and South Carolina. Both New Hampshire and Iowa are overwhelmingly white states that are far less diverse than the nation as a whole.
“A Democrat who is unable to inspire strong levels of support in minority communities will have no credible path to winning the presidency in the general election,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a memo released as the polls closed.
Both Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, and Trump, a real estate mogul who has never held political office, have tapped into the public’s frustration with the current political system. Even if neither candidate ultimately becomes his party’s nominee, whoever does will have to reckon with those factions of voters.
Nearly half of voters in the Republican primary made up their minds in the past week. Republican voters were more negative about their politicians than Democrats, with about half of GOP voters saying they felt betrayed by party officials.
In a sign of Trump’s impact on the race, two-thirds of GOP voters said they supported a temporary ban on non-citizen Muslims entering the U.S., a position the billionaire outlined last year amid rising fears of terrorism emanating from the Middle East.
After finishing behind Cruz in Iowa last week, Trump embraced some of the more traditional trappings of presidential campaigns, including smaller town hall events with voters. Still, he closed the final full day of campaigning with a vulgar insult of Cruz.
The Texas senator brushed off Trump’s comments, saying the reason the businessman engages in insults “is because he can’t discuss the substance.”
The large Republican field was winnowed after Iowa, but there remains a crowded grouping of more traditional candidates, including Rubio and the governors.
Rubio had appeared to be breaking away after a stronger-than-expected showing in Iowa, but he stumbled in Saturday’s debate under intense pressure from Christie. The New Jersey governor has relentlessly cast the young senator as too inexperienced and too reliant on memorized talking points to become president.
Rubio played into Christie’s hands by responding with the same well-rehearsed line each time he was challenged by the governor. Rival campaigns hoped the moment was enough to give voters pause.
Kasich, Bush and Christie all poured enormous resources into New Hampshire in hope of jumpstarting their White House bids in a state that has been friendly to moderate Republicans. All three could face pressure from party leaders and financial donors to end their campaigns without a strong showing.