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Jonathan Bernstein: For Trump, Sanders, road still very long

Jonathan Bernstein: For Trump, Sanders, road still very long

  • Updated

The pollsters got it right for a change. Donald Trump, the Republican outsider, won solidly in New Hampshire over a divided field, while Bernie Sanders, the Democratic insurgent, won in a landslide over Hillary Clinton.

Sanders needed to win big to have any chance of winning his party’s nomination, because New Hampshire played to all his strengths: He is a senator from the state next door. He did well among independents, who can vote in New Hampshire primaries (in many other states, the party primaries are open only to registered Democrats or Republicans, and that is expected to benefit Clinton). Also, New Hampshire is largely white, so her strength with minority voters was not a factor.

The big advantage for Sanders over the next few weeks is that we’re about to have a media freak-out about Hillary Clinton and her chances.

It will be largely unjustified. No, she will not sweep all 50 states, as Al Gore did in 2000, but nothing so far suggests her polling leads in coming primaries are phony.

Is it possible that black and Latino voters will suddenly FeeltheBern? It isn’t clear what would make that happen. We’ll begin to find out in Nevada, which is the next stop for Democrats on Feb. 20.

Trump, too, had advantages in New Hampshire, where evangelical and very conservative voters make up a much smaller percentage of the GOP electorate than in most states. The biggest advantage for Trump, however, is that neither Marco Rubio nor Ted Cruz nor anyone else capitalized on the Iowa results to break out of the pack.

Trump received about a third of the vote. Polling suggests that in a more typical Republican state he’ll perform more the way he did in Iowa and fail to reach 30 percent. That isn’t going to be enough once the GOP field consolidates.

Yes, it will consolidate. New Hampshire knocked out only Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina. That narrows the field to six, with one — Ben Carson — barely above water.

John Kasich and Christie put their bets on New Hampshire, and Kasich managed second place. But it wasn’t particularly impressive: The Ohio governor failed to reach 20 percent and has little campaign presence elsewhere. Nor does it seem likely that resources will flood toward him, even after he edged out Cruz, Jeb Bush and Rubio.

Cruz, Rubio and Bush all depart from New Hampshire in a jumble. But they’re unlikely to remain that way for long, because South Carolina Republicans vote Feb. 20.

We’re going to hear more speculation that either Trump will win everywhere now or a contested convention will take place, in which no candidate will be able to claim a delegate majority.

Don’t believe it. In four of the last five Republican contests, four candidates received at least 10 percent of the South Carolina vote, yet eventually the logic of place-order finishes continued to knock out losers until a winner emerged.

True, those elections didn’t have a Trump. But Cruz, Kasich, Rubio or Bush each would defeat Trump one-on-one. Nothing that happened in New Hampshire or in Iowa has changed the way this works.

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