Last night in New Hampshire, as expected, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump won big. But that clouded the future for the GOP more than it did for Democrats. (More)
“Together we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington”
At his victory party, Mr. Sanders, flashing a wide, toothy grin, pointed to the large voter turnout as evidence that only he could energize the Democratic electorate to defeat the Republicans in November.
“Together we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California,” Mr. Sanders said. “And that is that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people, and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their ‘super PACs.’”
It was another of Sanders’ thinly-veiled accusations that Hillary Clinton is a bought-and-paid-for tool of Wall Street.
“I will work harder than anyone to actually make the changes that make your lives better”
For her part, Clinton gave an extraordinary concession speech:
“You know, when I started this campaign last spring, I knew we were facing profound challenges as a country. The way too many things were going just wasn’t right. It isn’t right that the kids I met in Flint on Sunday were poisoned because their governor wanted to save money. It isn’t right for a grandmother here in New Hampshire or anywhere else to have to choose between paying rent and buying medicine because a prescription drug company increased the price 4,000 percent overnight. And it isn’t right that a cashier that I met here in New Hampshire is paid less than her son for doing the same work even though she’s been on the job for more years.”
“Now, people – people have every right to be angry. But they’re also hungry. They’re hungry for solutions. What are we going to do? And that is – that is the fight we’re taking to the country. What is the best way to change people’s lives so we can all grow together? Who is the best change-maker? And here’s what I promise. Here’s what I promise: I will work harder than anyone to actually make the changes that make your lives better.
She promised to rein in too-big-to-fail banks and tighten regulations on Wall Street. But she also spoke to issues that – while ignored in almost-all-white Iowa and New Hampshire – will resonate as the campaign moves to Nevada and South Carolina:
“But even all that is not enough. We also have to break through the barriers of bigotry. African-American parents shouldn’t have to worry that their children will be harassed, humiliated, even shot because of the color of their skin. Immigrant families shouldn’t have to lie awake at night listening for a knock on the door. LGBT Americans shouldn’t be fired from their jobs because of who they are or who they love. And let’s finally deliver something long overdo, equal pay for women in this economy. So here’s how I see it. A president has to do all parts of the job for all Americans to make sure nothing holds you back. Not debt, not discrimination, not a deck that’s always stacked for those at the top.”
You can watch her entire speech here.
Sanders was expected to win big in New Hampshire, and prediction markets still have Clinton a 4:1 favorite to win the Democratic nomination. But on the GOP side, Trump’s big win and Marco Rubio’s collapse combined to upend last week’s narrative.
“A Racist, Sexist Demagogue Just Won The New Hampshire Primary”
So reads the Huffington Post headline for an article by Ryan Grim and Igor Bobic:
New Hampshire Republican primary voters on Tuesday made official their choice for president of the United States: real estate mogul and reality television star Donald J. Trump.
The businessman’s resounding victory amid a crowded field of more experienced and accomplished candidates is a stunning turn of events for a party that vowed just four years ago to be more inclusive to minorities after failing to unseat President Barack Obama in the bitter 2012 election. What the GOP got instead is a xenophobic demagogue who’s insulted pretty much everyone and even earned the endorsement of white supremacists. Trump’s victory in New Hampshire likely points to a drawn-out slog between Trump and at least one of his rivals as they battle to secure enough delegates in hopes of winning their party’s nomination this summer.
“It’s easy to lose sight of how terrifying it really is”
On Monday, Donald Trump held a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he merrily repeated a woman in the crowd who called Ted Cruz a pussy. Twenty-four hours later Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary in a landslide.
I’m not here to clutch my pearls over Trump’s vulgarity; what was telling, rather, was the immaturity of the moment, the glee Trump took in his “she-said-it-I-didn’t” game. The media, which has grown used to covering Trump as a sideshow, delighted in the moment along with him – it was funny, and it meant clicks, takes, traffic. But it was more than that. It was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president showing off the demagogue’s instinct for amplifying the angriest voice in the mob.
It is undeniably enjoyable watching Trump. He’s red-faced, discursive, funny, angry, strange, unpredictable, and real. He speaks without filter and tweets with reckless abandon. The Donald Trump phenomenon is a riotous union of candidate ego and voter id. America’s most skilled political entertainer is putting on the greatest show we’ve ever seen.
It’s so fun to watch that it’s easy to lose sight of how terrifying it really is.
Like Grim and Bobic, Klein describes Trump as ” a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante.” But Klein also points to an even more disturbing character flaw:
Trump’s other gift – the one that gets less attention, but is perhaps more important – is his complete lack of shame. It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.
Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.
Trump lives by the reality-television trope that he’s not here to make friends. But the reason reality-television villains always say they’re not there to make friends is because it sets them apart, makes them unpredictable and fun to watch. “I’m not here to make friends” is another way of saying “I’m not bound by the social conventions of normal people.” The rest of us are here to make friends, and it makes us boring, gentle, kind.
This, more than his ideology, is why Trump genuinely scares me. There are places where I think Trump’s instincts are an improvement on the Republican field. He seems more dovish than neoconservatives like Marco Rubio, and less dismissive of the social safety net than libertarians like Rand Paul. But those candidates are checked by institutions and incentives that hold no sway over Trump; his temperament is so immature, his narcissism so clear, his political base so unique, his reactions so strange, that I honestly have no idea what he would do – or what he wouldn’t do.
“A political cataclysm for the Republican Party”
And he already is for the GOP, as The New Republic’s Brian Beutler reports:
Trump’s victory, and the magnitude of his victory, is a political cataclysm for the Republican Party. When it became clear that Trump would win, the GOP establishment’s parting hope was that Trump’s margin would thin, and he’d once again face a storyline about his inability to meet expectations; that he’d lose by winning. Instead he more than doubled the support of the second-place finisher, John Kasich. This gives Trump an early delegate lead going into nominating contests in South Carolina and Nevada, where he also enjoys commanding advantages in public polls.
Trump’s path to the nomination just expanded back to its pre-Iowa thickness. And the biggest contributing factor to Trump’s resurgence – the second biggest story out of New Hampshire – is the Republican Party leadership’s near-total loss of control over its candidate pool. Had Senator Marco Rubio, rather than Kasich, finished second in New Hampshire – had he managed to capitalize on his third-place showing in Iowa – the story tonight would be dramatically different.
Instead, everything that’s happened since last Monday has served as a reminder that the Republican establishment is hanging its fortunes on extremely thin reeds.
“This is the perfect storm for Trump”
Politico’s Alex Isenstadt agrees:
For the establishment wing of the Republican Party, the picture just keeps getting bleaker.
Far from winnowing the crowded field of mainstream GOP contenders and allowing it to unify around a standard-bearer, New Hampshire thrust it further into chaos. Marco Rubio, after taking steps last week to coalesce the backing of the party’s upper echelons, saw his momentum halted in the state, which punished him for delivering an overly scripted debate performance.
The establishment lane is now more crowded than ever, with Rubio, Jeb Bush, and New Hampshire runner-up John Kasich heading for a brutal fight in South Carolina – a state known for its rough-and-tumble political culture. Chris Christie, who was also competing for establishment support, is reassessing his campaign’s future.
All of this, many in the mainstream wing of the GOP worry, is excellent news for one man: Donald Trump.
“This is the perfect storm for Trump,” said Matt Dowd, who served as chief strategist on George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign. “He got his poll numbers, won by double digits, recovered from a loss, and has multiple opponents. You couldn’t design a better scenario for him.”
“So far, the establishment has been trying to beat Trump with wishful thinking”
Up next is South Carolina, where he has a 16-point lead and where there’s not enough time for retail politicking to make a big difference. Barring something dramatic, he is going to win.
On February 23, Nevada holds Republican caucuses. That’s the GOP’s best chance to deal Trump another blow before the election storms forward to the March 1 contests in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. At that point, you’re simply talking about too much geography being in play for retail politics to make a big difference. Trump’s mastery of broadcast media will be a huge asset for him.
And Yglesias says the other WHannabes and GOP insiders have no coherent strategy to stop Trump:
The establishment’s consistent dream, ever since Trump rocketed into a national polling lead, has been that consolidation of the “establishment lane” candidates will lead eventually some someone from the Rubio/Bush/Christie/Kasich foursome taking a strong lead. The problem for the establishment is that New Hampshire is the only state where this would have actually worked. Had supporters of those four men all united behind a single candidate, he would have won.
But they didn’t.
And in national polling averages, winnowing alone doesn’t work. If you combine Rubio’s 17.8 percent with Bush’s 4.3 percent, Kasich’s 4 percent, and Christie’s 2.5 percent you get a grand total of 28.5, which is still slightly behind Trump.
So far, the establishment has been trying to beat Trump with wishful thinking. It keeps not working. Trump could self-destruct or drop out for no reason at all. He could be abducted by aliens. Who knows? But merely hoping for those things is not a plan. The plain reality is that right now he is on course to win the nomination unless some concerted effort is made to stop him. And so far, there’s no sign that any such effort is underway. Republican leaders not actively involved in the campaign simply seem baffled and stunned into indifference. And they’re running out of time.
Prediction markets still give Trump only a 43% chance to win the GOP nomination. But that’s more than double his nearest rival, Rubio, whose 5th place finish last night revealed his basic weakness as a candidate. Trump can say something outrageous, or have a bad debate, and his backers rally around him. When Rubio flops, as he did in Saturday night’s debate, erstwhile supporters run for the hills. So Nate Silver says Trump is the GOP frontrunner, unless and until he implodes or GOP voters consolidate around a single alternative.
I don’t fear a Trump presidency, but only because polls suggest he’s too unpopular with too many Americans to win in November. Were those numbers to change, he would indeed be a terrifying prospect.
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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