The two presidential candidates disdaining corporate donations won huge victories in the New Hampshire primaries Feb. 9. But the next steps in their races remain unusually open as the campaigns move this month to Nevada and South Carolina.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won a 60-38 victory in the Democratic primary over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by relying on individual donors and without a political action committee (PAC) accepting corporate donations.
Similarly, billionaire businessman Donald Trump (shown in a file photo) won 35-16 in a more crowded Republican field by relying nearly entirely on self-funding and free media. Trump thereby defeated Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the second-place finisher, and six other candidates who accept corporate donations through their PACs.
Both winners tapped into deep voter discontent with the political, business, and media establishments in the country and in the two major parties, as illustrated by the graphic below by Sanders supporters. In New Hampshire and elsewhere, the winners have attracted huge, enthusiastic crowds dwarfing those of their competitors.
Yet the specific contours of each party’s race mean that even the winners’ huge margins failed to clarify the ultimate outcomes of the party nomination fights.
Sanders — while exceeding expectations in dealing a harsh defeat to Clinton with the help of independents allowed to vote in the primary of their choice in New Hampshire — now faces far more difficult terrain for him.
Only Democrats may participate in the caucuses in Nevada. The primary landscape is even more forbidding for Sanders in South Carolina. There, the Democrats-only primary electorate is 55 percent African-American. That compares to single digits for blacks and Hispanics total in New Hampshire and Iowa. Sanders narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses to Clinton in caucuses Feb. 1.
Clinton, in part via her husband Bill’s presidency, has built many relationships in the black community. These ties are especially strong among older minority leaders and voters. Sanders, however, has shown an edge in grass roots enthusiasm.
Sanders' self-description as a "democratic socialist" creates discomfort in conservative regions, where Sanders has polled far below Clinton (at least until he introduces himself). There is an upside, however. In New Hampshire exit polls, he won 91-5 on the issue of being more trustworthy.