Hillary Clinton knew she wasn’t going to win Iowa. But after barely eking out a win in the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton knew she had to make the race closer than the polls were indicating. She’s losing steam at the same time Bernie Sanders is picking up momentum, and New Hampshire results could have slammed the breaks on both trends. Could have, but didn’t.
Instead, Sanders beat Clinton by what appears to be the largest margin in the New Hampshire primary in decades. Politico’s Annie Karnie reports:
Now, after a drubbing so serious as to call into question every aspect of her campaign from her data operation to her message, the wounded front-runner and her allies are actively preparing to retool their campaign, according to Clinton allies.
Staffing and strategy will be reassessed. The message, which so spectacularly failed in New Hampshire, where she was trailing by 21 points when she appeared before her supporters to concede to Bernie Sanders, is also going to be reworked – with race at the center of it.
Focusing on race isn’t something that a winning candidate pivots to, it’s a desperate call for help among voters who should naturally make up your constituency anyways. And that’s the problem. It’s not that Clinton isn’t succeeding with certain key demographic groups — which is necessary to win if you’re going to follow Barack Obama’s identity politics playbook — it’s that she isn’t succeeding with any of them. The New York Times’ David Jones writes:
Senator Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton among nearly every demographic group in the Democratic New Hampshire primary, according to exit polls.
He carried majorities of both men and women. He won among those with and without college degrees. He won among gun owners and non-gun owners. He beat Mrs. Clinton among previous primary voters and those participating for the first time. And he ran ahead among both moderates and liberals.
Sanders also won every ideological group, from those calling themselves “very liberal,” to “somewhat liberal,” to “moderate.” Perhaps most tellingly, Clinton lost nearly every income group with the exception of one: Voters in families earning over $200,000 per year.
So what happened in New Hampshire? How did she go from having a 30 point lead to losing by 22 percent? Sure, there was likely a home field advantage for Sanders, who represents a neighboring state, but it’s not as though the Clintons don’t have a long and deep history in New Hampshire.
After all, the state has twice bailed out the Clinton’s presidential hopes. The first came in 1992, when Bill Clinton came unexpectedly close to winning the state despite poll numbers that were falling precipitously in the face of reports of an extramarital affair. After the results were published, Clinton labeled himself the Comeback Kid and the momentum never slowed down. It was much the same in 2008 for Hillary. She just came off a disastrous third place finish in Iowa and polls were showing Obama with a clear lead. Nevertheless, Clinton won by more than two points.
But this year is a much different story. There were no comebacks to be had, no momentum to be gained. Instead, a crushing blow was delivered, one that could dramatically reshape the race. Undoubtedly, the Clinton team will have many excuses. They’ll say she was always going to lose against a regional candidate. That New Hampshire is just one, small, mostly white state that isn’t representative of the nation. That Sanders can’t replicate his ground game successes now that the primaries become much more rapid fire.
They’re all excuses that hide the fact that Clinton faces enormous headwinds. In both Iowa and New Hampshire she lost big among young voters, whom she hoped would be the backbone of her campaign; in New Hampshire she lost among women, despite designing her entire message around becoming the first female president; and perhaps most importantly, in both states Sanders dominated among voters who cared about honestly. Actually, “dominated” doesn’t do it justice. He won by 92 percent to 6 percent.
Can Clinton overcome those numbers in South Carolina, the home of the next primary battle? Maybe, but nothing she’s done on the campaign trail so far suggest that she will.