Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary with 39.1% of the vote. That contest featured opponents such as Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, and Joe Biden, later elected Vice President. In last night’s primary, Hillary got 38.4% of the vote (89.3% precincts reporting) in a two-way race against a Senate backbencher who only recently affiliated himself with the Democratic Party.
Are Democrats willing to admit now that their front-runner might be a terrible candidate?
“I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people,” she said. “But I will repeat again what I have said this week: Even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.”
The overwhelming support for Sanders — a disheveled 74-year-old who has spent two decades in Congress — among younger voters is perhaps the biggest challenge confronting Clinton’s campaign in the Democratic nominating contest. It also underscores the problem with what Clinton represents: In a year that voters are craving authenticity and a break from the political norm above all else, her nearly three decades in the political limelight is a liability.
“Hillary just seems like a normal Democrat, and Bernie seems a little revolutionary to me,” said Jonah Hunt, an 18-year-old high school senior in Rochester, New Hampshire.
For Clinton to win the Democratic nomination, or at least stave off a lengthy, damaging primary fight, she needs to win over those voters — and those she can’t win now, she’ll need on her side if she advances to the general election.
This is a joke, right? Hillary has had every advantage in this cycle. She and her allies cleared the field of everyone but Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley early by tying up the institutional donors and big-name endorsements. O’Malley’s campaign withered on the vine, while Sanders went the Howard Dean route. The Clintons dominated the race for months, during which time Hillary had the support of all those demographics. She doesn’t have work to do; she has had to work at it all along, and has lost these voters. In huge numbers.
How bad was it? Despite explicitly running on gender, Hillary lost women in New Hampshire to a 74-year-old grandpa:
The Clinton campaign was trying to stop the hemorrhage of female voters — especially young women — from its camp in the closing days. Campaigning with Clinton on Saturday, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright thundered, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” — a phrase she’s used before, but one that was specifically targeted at younger female voters who were wooed by Sanders. Feminist leader Gloria Steinem also stirred controversy when she suggested last week that younger women were supporting Sanders just so they could meet boys.
It turns out the Clinton campaign’s fears were right. According to exit polls, women made up 55 percent of the New Hampshire electorate — and they favored Sanders by 11 points.
And don’t even started on trust:
Democrats fretted early on in Clinton’s candidacy about her high negatives in polls. Respondents said they didn’t see her as someone who cared about them or someone who could be trusted. Months later, the campaign’s worries are proving correct.
A 34 percent plurality of voters said whether a candidate is honest and trustworthy mattered most to them — and among those voters, Sanders thumped Clinton 91 percent to 5 percent.
The one demographic Hillary assumed was hers and hers alone has balked at gender corralling. No one trusts her. The only reason she’s still in the race is because everyone assumed Hillary was the inevitable nominee. With this embarrassingly lopsided loss in New Hampshire, that assumption can no longer hold, and neither can the fantasy of Hillary being a competent candidate for office. If the Democratic Party can’t free themselves from that illusion, their voters don’t seem to have an issue taking off the blinders.
Next up for Democrats is Nevada, a caucus state, and South Carolina, a state Hillary and her team has assumed she would easily win over Sanders. Team Hillary’s already conceding that Nevada may be a tough fight, claiming that a lack of diversity in the caucus will benefit Bernie. But having come out of Iowa with a tie and a huge loss in New Hampshire, the perception of her inevitability in South Carolina may change, too. Don’t be surprised to see a huge Bernie surge in the next couple of weeks as South Carolina voters realize that they may actually have a real choice to make.