New York billionaire Donald Trump, after a humbling second-place finish in Iowa, was propelled by New Hampshire voters to a victory in Tuesday’s Republican primary while underdog Bernie Sanders completed his improbable win over Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.
The Granite State celebrated the 100th anniversary of its primary with one of the highest voter turnouts in history, giving Trump the numbers he needed to meet expectations after leading in the polls for months. Sanders, the Vermont senator who has described himself as a democratic socialist, started 40 points behind Clinton months ago and rode a wave of popular support to a commanding lead in the nation’s first primary.
Trump, the brash, politically incorrect real-estate tycoon, flourished behind a message that was thin on policy offerings but sought to tap into voter anger and dissatisfaction on a wide range of issues.
Mark Collins, who held a sign for Trump on Tuesday in front of the First Baptist Church – Nashua’s Ward 3 polling location – said he supported Trump’s candidacy because of the candidate’s aggressive stance against illegal immigration and on the economy.
"First, the open-border problem, then jobs and national security," he said. "Trump was the only candidate initially that brought these issues to the table."
Collins said he also like the idea of "ruffling feathers" in Washington and he cited Trump’s status as a voice outside the establishment.
"I also think he truly loves this country, and he is not beholden to special interests," he added.
With 133 of the 300 precincts reporting at press time, Trump had won 34 percent of the Republican vote. The runner-up was Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has gained 16 percent by 10 p.m.
Kasich’s solid finish came three days after a strong showing in the Feb. 6 debate from Saint Anselm College, where he delivered his best performance to date.
He won over those who may have otherwise voted for establishment favorites like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Daryl Erickson, a retired general surgeon from Amherst, voted for Kasich. "Of all the three governors, I think he probably has got the most going for him as far as getting things done. I like his attitude. I think he ran a positive campaign," Erickson said.
Sanders won the Democratic primary with about 60 percent of New Hampshire residents who voted in the Democratic primary. Clinton, who won Iowa last week by the thinnest margin in the history of that state’s caucus system, received about 38 percent in New Hampshire. Ward 4 voter Kara Rudolph said deciding between Clinton and Sanders was a struggle. "I’m usually undeclared, and I had a really tough time between Hillary and Bernie," said the Nashua voter. "I was for her when she ran against Obama. But Bernie Sanders, it doesn’t matter how old he is, he’s a fresh take on Hillary," she added. "I feel bad for Hillary, but I just feel more comfortable with Bernie." Sanders made stops throughout the state in the past week, rallying thousands with his message of sparking a political revolution.
His Feb. 4 debate performance, as well as a stirring speech last Friday at a well-attended Democratic event in Manchester, may have helped Sanders near the finish line.
The Clinton camp played down Granite State expectations leading into the primary and while she remains ahead in national polls, her razor- thin Iowa victory and loss here could give Sanders momentum. New Hampshire in the past has been reliable stomping grounds for the Clintons. Former President Bill Clinton resurrected his 1992 presidential campaign with a second-place finish in the state and dubbed himself "the Comeback Kid."