This one had to hurt.
Hillary Clinton’s resounding defeat Tuesday in the nation’s first primary for the Democratic presidential nomination was not unexpected, but it had to be devastating given her history in the small but pivotal state of New Hampshire.
This is the same state where she pulled off a stunning victory in her first run for president, in 2008, and where her husband, former President Bill Clinton, finished in second place in 1992, helping to propel him to the nomination and earning him the nickname the Comeback Kid.
But after a hard-fought race, where she was up 40 points at one point, Clinton still managed to lose to a little-known senator, a self-described democratic socialist, who was dismissed as a fringe candidate when he got in the race last year.
“I still love New Hampshire and I always will,” Clinton told supporters late Tuesday. “Now we take this campaign to the entire country. We’re going to fight for every vote and every state.”
Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old independent senator from Vermont, persuaded young and independent voters fed up with Washington that he could rid the country of the so-called billionaire class better than an establishment politician with ties to Wall Street. It was the same message that led him to only narrowly lose the Iowa caucuses last week.
Those who said they wanted an outsider backed Sanders in droves, 89-8 percent, according to preliminary exit polls
“Together, we have sent the message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California . . . that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their super PACs,” Sanders told supporters at a boisterous victory party.
Sanders, who wants to help the underpaid, overworked American worker by launching a “political revolution,” has shown that he has staying power and is working to create the momentum needed to stay competitive in the Democratic contest. Already, he has received a record number of 3.5 million contributions and, in January, out-raised Clinton by $5 million.
“He’s for the people,” said Shannon Dooling, 26, who works in a tea store in Manchester, New Hampshire. “A lot of politicians are up there to gain more money and more publicity, but Bernie, he’s really trying to have everyone be equal. . . . He’s going to try to rearrange the government to make everything fair.”
Clinton finds herself in a position similar to 2008, when she and Barack Obama split the first two states and battled for the nomination for months. She will be forced to examine whether to alter her strategy with polls showing the race tightening nationally.
Say she does become president, nothing’s going to change. All those same people coming back to do the same job they have done before. Marc Murai, 46, a student at Manchester Community College
“We’re going to take stock: what works, what doesn’t work,” Clinton said on MSNBC this week. “We’re moving into a different phase of the campaign.”
Clinton is expected to do well in the next contests, in Nevada and South Carolina, as well as on Super Tuesday, March 1, when many Southern states with large black populations go to the polls.
Those contests will determine whether Sanders, who is strong with white, rural voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, can broaden his appeal to large numbers of minority voters.
Both already have begun to look ahead to those states, visiting with voters, dispatching surrogates and rolling out endorsements. Clinton’s first post-Iowa ad was in South Carolina, not New Hampshire. She made the unusual decision to leave New Hampshire two days before voters went to the polls, to visit Flint, Michigan, where a predominantly black, low-income community has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water.
Clinton had tried to lower expectations in New Hampshire, saying she would have an uphill climb because the state would likely back the candidate from next door. Sanders had insisted that he, too, was the underdog because the Clintons and their powerful political organization have campaigned four times in New Hampshire.
Clinton fought hard in New Hampshire. She sent her husband and her daughter to events across the state. She rolled out endorsements from most of the elected Democrats, including the three top elected women in New Hampshire politics. She reached out to people who’d backed Martin O’Malley, a former Maryland governor who dropped out of the race last week. And she dispatched nearly 150 staffers from her New York headquarters to help in New Hampshire, where she already had 11 offices and 10,000 volunteers.
“I like her experience. She’s been there,” said Frank Zito, a retired marketing and sales executive from Bedford, New Hampshire. “It would be stupid not to vote for her.”
But preliminary exit polls show Sanders received large margins among younger and financially struggling voters, liberals and more of the state’s sizable contingent of independent voters.
This win isn’t just a big victory for the grass-roots movement behind Bernie Sanders, it’s a down payment on the people-powered political revolution that should scare the pants off of Wall Street and America’s ruling millionaire and billionaire class. Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America
And in New Hampshire, where voters are known to wait until the last minute to decide whom to support, a spate of recent negative publicity may have hurt Clinton.
Her supporters questioned the decision by young women to support Sanders and not Clinton, who could be the nation’s first female president.
Madeleine Albright, the nation’s first female secretary of state, said last weekend that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Feminist writer and editor Gloria Steinem said young women were supporting Sanders only because they wanted to get closer to the young men who supported him. After criticism, she apologized “for what’s been misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.”
Sanders ended up winning among men as well as women, according to preliminary exit polls.
Clinton also had been dogged for days about her decision to accept campaign contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street, with some voters saying it makes them question her honesty.
Preliminary exit polls show Sanders received the support of those who say honesty and trustworthiness are the most important attributes in a candidate.
“I think she’s a little too paid-for, like most politicians, a little too involved with personal interests, ” said John Halsted, 21, a hairdresser from Sunapee, New Hampshire. “She’s too funded. Bernie is funded by me and my friends; she’s got a lot of ties to big business.”