What Did the 2016 New Hampshire Primary Tell Us?

The New Hampshire Primary is the first state primary to be conducted, by state law. This primary, along with the Iowa caucus, sets the tone for the rest of the state primaries and caucuses. This is illustrated by the fact that the Iowa caucus resulted in four candidates dropping out.

One was GOP candidate Mike Huckabee, who tweeted that he was “officially suspending” his campaign. GOP candidates Rand Paul and Rick Santorum followed soon after. The other was Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley, who had consistently trailed in the polls behind Hillary Clinton (winner of the Iowa caucus) and Bernie Sanders.

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The New Hampshire primary was just as deadly. After the primary results were out, GOP candidate Chris Christie withdrew from the presidential race. Carly Fiorina, a consistently strong undercard candidate, withdrew from the Republican candidates shortly after. They were joined by Jim Gilmore, leaving 6 GOP presidential candidates out of the original 17.

Recap of the 2016 New Hampshire Primary

The winners of this primary were Donald Trump for the Republicans, and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats. The primary was a particular victory for Trump, who was beaten in the Iowa caucus by Ted Cruz despite predicting an easy win. John Kasich was second in the polls, surprising those who assumed Ted Cruz and Donald Trump would be neck-and-neck this presidential race. Ted Cruz finished 3rd in the New Hampshire primary. On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders passed Hillary Clinton by a substantial margin, 60% to 39%. Clinton had won the Iowa caucus by a very slim margin, 49.9% to Sanders’ 49.6%.

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What the 2016 New Hampshire Primary Tells Us

The GOP May Not Want a ‘Milder’ Trump

Ted Cruz passed Ben Carson as second in the polls after the Paris Terror Attacks. Analysts believed that voters were beginning to swing towards candidates with political experience such as Cruz and Marco Rubio, taking support away from the candidates who had run on their non-political backgrounds, such as Donald Trump and Carson. Ted Cruz’s political strategy so far seems to be to present himself as a milder alternative to Donald Trump.

Ted Cruz was the first to speak out in support of Donald Trump’s immigration policies, shortly after Trump first declared his candidacy for president under the Republican banner. It was a bold move, when the GOP campaigns did not yet reflect the freer rhetoric that entered with Trump. Cruz and Trump also hold many of the same policy platforms on, say, immigration.

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However, Trump’s incendiary comments, such as that on banning Muslims from the United States, made Cruz seem “sane” and therefore more acceptable as a candidate. The national polls entering the primaries also consistently showed that Cruz was second to Trump nationally. Since Rubio consistently ranked behind Cruz, casual analysis would make him the automatic replacement.

However, John Kasich stole second place from Ted Cruz in this 2016 New Hampshire primary, sending all the analysts back to their desks to find out what they missed. Kasich had spent most of his time in New Hampshire while his competition criss-crossed the country campaigning. He was partly considered an insignificant competitor because of this. After all, New Hampshire is only one of the 50 states, despite being an important swing state.

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However, Kasich stunned the nation with his win, and drew eyes to him, nationally and internationally. It drew attention to his largely positive campaign messages, and to the fact that he was a potential bright light among the other candidates, who were notably pessimistic in message. The fact that he was an underdog competitor, and the surprise of his win, will aid his campaign if he can build on the momentum. Kasich’s strategic targeting of states also speaks well for his choice of campaign advisors, and for his own skills as potential President of the United States.

Trump is a Strong Contender

When Trump decided not to join the 2016 New Hampshire primary, analyses on the outcome of his campaign flew fast and thick. For most of them, that this was the last debate before the Iowa caucus should have made him more cautious about his campaign style. Ideally, he should have been on the stage to remind Republican voters why he was still the best choice for Republican nominee, even after the Iowa loss. This, they predicted, was the chance of the other Republicans to take hold of the stage and drag it away from Trump.

However, despite all of that, Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary. Only by a little over a third, but it was still enough of a majority to show how split the voters were over the other candidates. What this proved was that Trump was still a very strong contender in his own right. The other Republican competitors, and the Establishment GOP, have much more to accomplish if they want to knock him out of the race.

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Democratic Socialism is Gaining Interest, if not Acceptance

When the presidential campaign race started, Bernie Sanders was almost immediately written off as a candidate because of his economic views. A Gallup Poll released in June 2015 showed that the least number of people, nationwide, would vote for a Socialist presidential candidate. They would vote for a Muslim, a homosexual, or an atheist, before they would vote for a Socialist.

However, Bernie Sanders continued to climb in the poll nationally. From a difference of 12% to 48% with Hillary Clinton in March-April 2015, he had closed it to 36% to 53% before the 2016 election season started. And now, with an undeniable 10-point win over Clinton in the 2016 New Hampshire primary, Sanders is proving himself a threat to the Clinton campaign despite–or because of–his democratic socialist stand.

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As recently as 2011, Americans still had a largely negative view of Socialism. In fact, just after the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ rallies, the negative perception of Socialism was at 60%, while the positive perception was only at 31%. While the Gallup poll in June showed better numbers, that 47% of Americans would vote for a Socialist president, it did not seem to be encouraging. However, as the presidential campaign continues, it is becoming clear that Sanders is being listened to; and that democratic socialism may gain new life in this season.

What Did the 2016 New Hampshire Primary Tell Us?

First of all, that this presidential race is going to be much more confusing than it looks. As contenders drop out of the lists, values will become more and more of an issue, and voters will become more and more aggressive in their personal campaigns for their preferred presidential candidates. As the next primaries and caucuses draw nearer, we can only wait and see how the candidates will meet or defy our expectations–again and again.

About the author

Esther has a B.A. in Humanities and an M.A. in Political Economy. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing Sequence with her family, training in Aikido, and curling up with coffee and a good book.