They are still counting the votes in New Hampshire, but it’s clear Bernie Sanders has soundly defeated the 2008 winner here, Hillary Clinton. The exit polls show Sanders up 56–42, and he leads 58–40 in the current raw vote. Projections indicate his margin might go higher. It seems he will easily exceed the 13 percent margin he enjoyed going in, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
The exit-poll breakdowns show Sanders having the same landslide performance with New Hampshire Millennials that he did with their Iowa counterparts. Where he improved on Iowa was actually at higher age and income levels: He won 45- to 64-year-olds and only lost seniors to Clinton, and also won every income category up to $200,000. We’ll have a more detailed idea when the raw numbers from individual towns come in, but it basically seems Sanders won an outsize share of the youth-vote segment of Obama’s 2008 coalition, and also did very well among the white blue-collar voter segment where Clinton beat Obama in New Hampshire and elsewhere. It remains to be seen if Sanders can recapitulate this white, working-class appeal south of the Mason–Dixon line. He is being undermined in the spin over this primary by the predictability of his win: Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gave Sanders a 99-percent probability of taking New Hampshire.
But the bigger question is how the two candidates perform in states with greater racial and ethnic diversity. There were not enough nonwhite voters to even register in the New Hampshire exit polls. In the next primary state — South Carolina, which votes after a murky, labor-dominated caucus in Nevada — 55 percent of the votes in 2008 were African-American. Sanders will then have his chance to show he can win such voters for the first time in his career. And Hillary Clinton will have the opportunity to show that the first two states are, as their critics have often said, simply not representative of the Democratic Party.
Clinton is the one facing the pressure, though. She’s gone from being the “inevitable” nominee to having to make excuses for a win in Iowa so narrow as to be meaningless, and then a pretty bad loss in the state that saved her bacon in 2008. Even before she reaches what should be the safe haven of South Carolina, she needs to show that her organization can win another caucus state in Nevada. And like Barack Obama facing a stubborn Clinton campaign eight years ago, each week will bring her an opportunity to regain an unstoppable lead — or to face another agonizing challenge in another state from an energized opponent.