So a fascist and a socialist walk into a bar in Manchester…
The Trump soufflé didn’t fall in New Hampshire, and Democrats did not get cold feet about voting for Bernie Sanders. For the first time since 1960, all 10 counties went for the same candidate in both parties’ primaries, with Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders building commanding leads from rural, economically distressed Coos County to the highly educated band of Boston exurbs in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties.
On the Democratic side, the huge age gap in Iowa showed up again in New Hampshire, with Mr. Sanders getting 83 percent (!) of the under-30 vote, 66 percent of those aged 30 to 44, a more modest 53 percent among 45-to-64-year-olds, and only 44 percent of those 65 or older. (Mr. Trump won all age categories among Republicans, but that electorate skewed older.) The “boomersplaining” of the past week, which saw Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem mocking young Sanders supporters, was disastrous for Hillary Clinton in a state that hates to be told it’s on the verge of voting wrong. Daughter Chelsea Clinton, though closer in age to the typical Sanders supporters, did not help matters when she attacked the Sanders health-care plan by mischaracterizing it as an attempt to end Obamacare without having an alternative in place.
Ms. Clinton remains the heavy favorite for the Democratic nomination. The New Hampshire results suggest that she’ll have trouble in the Brown/Tsongas belt, or the states that were most resistant to Bill Clinton in the 1992 primaries—New England, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and Western states with relatively small Latino populations like Utah and Washington. But the results of Nashua, N.H., may not have much predictive value in the South (where black voters may opt for the more practical candidate) or in the big industrial states of the Northeast and Midwest. That’s assuming the Clinton campaign doesn’t panic and launch counterproductive attacks on Mr. Sanders (the worst strategy for the South Carolina primary would be for Bill to repeat his “fairy tale” description of Barack Obama in 2008).
“I know I have some work to do now, particularly with young people,” Ms. Clinton said in her concession speech. “But I will repeat again what I have said this week: Even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.”
Presumably her campaign is working on something better than that. Her loss in New Hampshire has a lot to do with the perception of a corrupt political system and what Mr. Sanders called, in his victory speech, “a rigged economy where ordinary Americans work longer hours for lower wages while almost all new income and wealth goes to the top 1 percent.” (America’s editors explore the political import of this feeling in our current editorial, “Election Angst.”) This perception is not limited to those in immediate economic distress, and exit polls had Mr. Sanders winning among all income groups except voters in households making more than $200,000 per year.
The New York Times’ Brendan Nyhan (“Hillary’s Challenge: Peddling Pragmatism”) writes that Ms. Clinton needs to shift from her experience to a promise of change, and must do more than point out that the Sanders agenda would have zero chance of getting through a Republican Congress: “Her realism about the prospects for the Sanders agenda is implicitly dispiriting about the prospects for liberal domestic policy change in her presidency as well. Indeed, she often sounds as if she were acquiescing to a status quo that Democrats find objectionable.”
The “status quo” arguably includes the presidency of Barack Obama, and perhaps Ms. Clinton is nervous about alienating his supporters, but Mr. Sanders has largely kept Mr. Obama out of his sweeping criticisms of our economic and political system (even saying that Mr. Obama has done a “fantastic job” as president), so this clearly isn’t an impossible balancing act.
What will not help Ms. Clinton’s campaign (as the Chelsea Clinton dust-up should have proved) are attempts to claim the populist label in too-cute ways. At the Atlantic, David Frum noticed that “in her concession speech, Hillary Clinton boasted of her small donors. More than 70 percent had given less than $100, she claimed: ‘I know that doesn’t fit with the narrative.’” Mr. Frum pointed out that, regardless of how many people have given to the Clinton campaign, some 85 percent of the total haul has come from big donors. (Mr. Sanders has received 77 percent of his donations in sums of $200 or less, compared with 17 percent for Ms. Clinton, according to the Wall Street Journal.)
But I don’t think the Clinton campaign’s rough going in the early nomination contests means much in terms of her ability to win in November. Over the past few decades, there’s been very little correlation between how a candidate does in the primaries versus the general election. Mr. Obama, for example, erased the old rule that the party that settles on its nominee quicker has a decisive edge. And if Mr. Sanders brings new voters into the political process, it’s hard to imagine them sitting home in November or voting Republican.