Washington, Feb 10 (IANS) Cruising to decisive victories in the first primary battleground of New Hampshire, two outsiders – Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders – have changed the very dynamic of the US presidential race.
With a “yuge” (as both Trump and Sanders pronounce huge) win Tuesday after a second place setback in Iowa caucuses, the brash billionaire celebrity served notice on the establishment Republicans that they can no longer wish away the Trump phenomenon as a bad dream.
And the 74-year-old self-styled Democratic Socialist from Vermont, who has been curiously drawing huge crowds of the young like a Pied Piper, put a huge dent in Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s aura of inevitability.
With most results in by Wednesday morning, Sanders had a 60-30 percent lead over Clinton, while Trump was sitting pretty at the top among Republicans with 35 percent – more than double his nearest rival, Ohio Governor John Kasich with 16 percent.
Trump appeared on stage with a beaming smile on his face and gave a thumbs-up to his crowd of supporters. “Wow, wow, wow,” Trump said. “We are going to make America great again.”
“We are going now to South Carolina. We are gonna win in South Carolina!” he said referring to the next Republican round on February 20.
A hoarse but jubilant Sanders proclaimed his victory to be the result of a “huuuuge” turnout.
“Tonight, we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California,” he said, before predicting that the race against Clinton was going to quickly get even more contentious.
“They are throwing everything at me except the kitchen sink and I have the feeling that the kitchen sink is coming pretty soon as well,” he said.
Clinton appeared in her concession speech to be trying to co-opt Sanders’ message about an economy stacked against the middle class.
“Now we take this campaign to the entire country. We are going to fight for every vote in every state,” she said vowing asking her supporters to chip in with $1 contributions.
“I wish tonight had gone differently,” she wrote in an email. “But I know what it’s like to be knocked down — and I’ve learned from long experience that it’s not whether you get knocked down that matters. It’s about whether you get back up.”
With Trump cruising to victory as expected, the interest in the Republican race centred on who would win the second place.
That distinction went to Kasich with Iowa winner Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio battling for a third-place finish.
The race for the White House is far from over, but with two outsiders Sanders and Trump seizing the initiative by tapping into voters’ anger, establishment canditates on both sides would have to fight hard to wrest ground inch by inch in the remaining 48 states.
The Washington Post said Sanders’ decisive victory embarrassing Clinton in a state she won eight years ago against then Senator Barack Obama “confirmed the strength of his iconoclastic appeal and the power of an insurgent message that cast Clinton as a creature of the old guard”.
But the New York Times, noting that “New Hampshire is in fact a drop in the bucket of delegates needed to win the nominations”, advised “the candidates who go on, the trick is not letting these results go to their heads, or get under their skins”.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)