CONCORD, N.H. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders got the big win he was seeking against the juggernaut campaign of Democratic presidential primary rival Hillary Clinton Tuesday in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.
Unlike Iowa last week, there was little suspense. The major news networks called the race for Sanders right as all polls officially closed at 8 p.m. — causing the crowd gathered at Concord High School to hear Sanders’ victory speech to explode with cheers.
After that it was just a question of how large Sanders’ margin of victory would be. With 93 percent of the vote counted, the Vermonter had a decisive 60 percent to 38 percent lead. Sanders, who was in an adjacent gym at the high school shooting hoops with his sons and grandkids as the results trickled in, received a concession call from Clinton.
He then took the stage to deliver a barely truncated version of his stump speech.
“Together, we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington and from Maine to California that the government of this great nation belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their super PACs,” Sanders said.
He thanked Clinton for the campaign she has waged thus far, and urged supporters of both candidates to respect each other.
“I hope in the days ahead that we can continue to wage a strong, issue-oriented campaign and bring new people into the democratic process,” he said. “We will need to come together in a few months and unite this party … because the right wing Republicans we oppose must not be allowed to get elected.”
But the self-described democratic socialist also warned of the challenges he will face ahead. He said his opponents are “throwing everything at me except the kitchen sink, and I have a feeling that kitchen sink is coming pretty soon as well.”
Sanders also made a pitch to the small donors that have helped fuel his campaign through Iowa and New Hampshire.
“Please help us raise the money we need to take the fight to Nevada, South Carolina and the states on Super Tuesday,” he said. “So there it is. That’s our fundraiser. Pretty quick.”
Prior to Sanders’ remarks, Clinton, after congratulating him, launched into her own inspired speech and promised to keep fighting for the nomination.
“I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people,” she said. “Even if they are not supporting me now I support them because I know I’ve had a blessed life, but I also know what it’s like to stumble and fall and so many people across America know that feeling.”
Having won New Hampshire eight years ago against then-Sen. Barack Obama in a come-from-behind effort, Tuesday’s loss was a reversal of fortunes for Clinton.
“I still love New Hampshire and I always will,” she said. “Here’s what we’re going to do — now we take this campaign to the entire country. We’re going to fight for every vote in every state. We’re going to fight to make a real difference in people’s lives.”
A significant Sanders victory was foreshadowed in exit polls even before voting ended. The Democratic electorate Tuesday was overwhelmingly liberal, with 68 percent claiming that label. A large chunk — 42 percent — said they were “somewhat” liberal, while 26 percent said they were “very” liberal. The numbers show that New Hampshire Democrats have moved further to the left since 2008.
With his Granite State rallies and campaign events complete, Sanders used some of his downtime Tuesday to visit a polling location on Green Street in Concord, N.H., Tuesday afternoon. He was greeted by boisterous supporters and a throng of media, while ward clerk Nick Wallner tried in vain to keep the growing crowd out of the way of voters.
Sanders exited his SUV and walked through a gauntlet of Sanders and Clinton supporters before leading media on a walk around the block in the shadow of the New Hampshire Statehouse. Sanders told reporters he was relishing the opportunity to stretch his legs — something he hasn’t been able to do for some time.
Downtime in a presidential campaign is fleeting, however. The Sanders campaign on Tuesday was already planning ahead for the next states up to vote.
The Clinton campaign has said it is planning to add more resources in smaller states, and ones that that hold caucuses, where Sanders hopes to tally large numbers of delegates. With New Hampshire now in the rear-view mirror, Sanders’ top strategist Tad Devine said the focus of the Sanders campaign will continue to be to wrack up delegates wherever it can — despite what Clinton does.
“We’re not responding to what they do. We haven’t from the beginning. We have a strategy. We have people on the ground in states for March 1 and beyond. We feel really good about the way we’re organizing this campaign,” he said. “We’re going to redeploy great organizers who have been out in the field in Iowa and New Hampshire. So, if they send a lot of people into caucus states that’s fine. We have a lot of people there too. We have a lot of resources not only to organize but also to communicate.”
Because the Democratic Party uses “a system of proportional representation,” Devine said it is “almost impossible when you have two candidates who are getting a large percentage of the vote to win a lot more delegates than your opponent.” That means the Sanders campaign will commit resources in states where Sanders has little chance of winning in an effort to keep his delegate count rising. They are hoping Tuesday’s resounding victory will help build momentum.
“So what we’re going to do is we’re going to compete everywhere. We’re going to win delegates everywhere. There will be opportunities, hopefully, to win states outright. We’ll look to do that. But, everywhere we can win delegates we will. We’ll make decisions on resources based on delegates and where we can pick up the most delegates,” Devine said.
After a $21 million fundraising haul in January, Sanders is well-positioned to deploy that strategy. Devine declined to say how much the campaign is on track to raise in February, but said New Hampshire should boost the numbers.
“I’m not going to make projections for February, but I’ll say this: the response to fundraising has been sensational. We think if we can show our supporters across the nation tonight that Bernie Sanders can not only go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton as he did in Iowa, but can actually defeat her, there’s going to be a tremendous response to that,” he said.
Donald Trump, the billionaire business man, was the big winner in the Republican primary Tuesday night. He noted Sanders’ big win Tuesday but pledged to defeat him.
“Congratulations to Bernie. In all fairness we have to congratulate him,” Trump said. “He wants to give away our country, folks. We’re not going to let it happen.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the GOP’s runner-up, also called out Sanders and joked about Sanders’ age — 74.
“Bernie talked so long I thought he was going to hit his 77th birthday,” he said.
Sanders was planning to depart New Hampshire for New York City Tuesday night. He is scheduled to have lunch in Harlem Wednesday with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist, former Democratic presidential candidate and MSNBC host. The meeting is aimed at bolstering Sanders’ standing with African American voters, a demographic Sanders’ has had difficulty gaining traction with.
The trip will also include appearances on ABC’s “The View” and CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” An aide said other media appearances are likely.