Here’s the dirty little secret about a little place like New Hampshire.
The actual votes cast there don’t add up to much. There’s just too few people who live there (even if the state motto insists that means doing so freely or welcoming death). The state holds less than 1 percent of the delegates sent to either the Republican or Democratic conventions.
But because the state long ago called dibs on the first presidential primary, and the rest of us have gone along with it, the political and media industries look at it as a powerful soothsayer for actual large-scale voting yet to come.
So it’s not just what the voters say — giving Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders critical boosts with big wins — it’s what the rest of the world makes of that.
The importance of New Hampshire comes mostly from such interpretations. Trump and Sanders won, and both essentially beat the spread.
But just as discussed, and as annoying, was whether those who didn’t win were humiliated or vindicated. At Mediaite, columnist Joe Concha put it this way: “Sometimes it’s not whether you win or lose, but who finishes second and fifth.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich pulled in less than half as many votes as Trump, yet many saw him as the surprise victor.
His second-place showing in New Hampshire, wrote Politico, meant he “immediately became the hunted.” Indeed, Jeb Bush’s well-heeled campaign quickly made clear it would direct attacks at the most moderate candidate in the GOP field. Heading toward the primary South Carolina, with a number of large military bases and retired veterans, the Bush campaign charged Kasich has tried to weaken the Pentagon.
Meantime, conservative RedState.com mocked Bush for spending more than $36 million for his fourth-place finish — which others saw as just strong enough to keep his campaign afloat — and estimated he spent about $1,200 per vote.
Trump continued his taunting of Bush on Twitter.
And because Trump is the particular public character that he is, and he’s a favorite target of the New York tabloids, The Daily News called New Hampshire voters “clueless” and offered up the headline “Dawn of the Brain Dead.”
That inspired the prospective tweeter-in-chief to respond to call the newspaper “worthless” and its owner “dopey.”
After a disappointing silver medal showing in Iowa, the political world had wondered if Trump’s poll numbers were for real. New Hampshire seemed to suggest he truly commands a plurality that no one else in the field can yet approach.
“The victory will legitimize Trump’s candidacy in ways that his polling performances and crowd sizes have been unable to,” wrote Josh Voorhees at Slate.com. “And that seemed to suggest that other campaigns and the pundit class would take him, and their insider opposition to the bombastic outsider, more seriously.”
The wonkish, but semi-hip, website Vox took another look at whether Trump — who’s given money to the Clintons, who used to declare himself fully in favor of abortion rights and who still hints that he might support a single-payer health insurance system — fits well in the GOP.
“Trump has consistently changed his opinions over the years when it suits him,” the site posted Wednesday morning. “That’s not exactly abnormal for a politician, but it certainly disputes the tell-it-like-it-is style that Trump is supposed to champion.”
Others looked at the mechanics. Geek-centric recode.com attributed part of the Sanders/Trump success to software that makes it easier to organize volunteer help.
Much of the attention looked forward, to South Carolina, Nevada and beyond. Trump holds steady poll advantages there. Still, much of the yak turned to which of the also-rans might at some point pose his chief rival. Hillary Clinton still has money and organization and at least the perceived support of minority voters — all of which will play a bigger part in the coming primaries than they did in New Hampshire or the Iowa caucuses.
Rick Sanchez at Fox News Latino suggested former president Bill Clinton erred by attacking Sanders before the New Hampshire vote, calling it “premature.” He noted that Marco Rubio had, a week ago, been seen as the most likely to finish behind Trump in the primary. Instead, he fell to a distant fifth.
“The obvious reason: one of the worst debate performances of the election cycle,” Sanchez wrote on Wednesday. “His constant repetition of the same memorized line was a sign of immaturity and nervousness.”
The man who prodded Rubio into his debate stumbles, Chris Christie, stepped aside from the campaign when he finished even lower in the Tuesday primary.
Carly Fiorina, who had virtually no expectations and met them by falling at the bottom of the pack, also left the trail on Wednesday.
The Star’s Dave Helling drew some interesting parallels between Clinton’s campaign struggles and those of Kansan Bob Dole decades before.
“Voters make their presidential decisions for many different reasons, but few see the process as just a job interview,” Helling said in his latest column. “They look for inspiration as well as perspiration.”
We were also reminded that because, well, the Internet, we could watch an old man with a tie sinking some buckets. Over and over.
And then return to his New York roots the next day to court Al Sharpton and the black vote.
At the Huffington Post, Michelle Alexander, the author of “The New Jim Crow” was cited in an argument that Clinton shouldn’t win the African-American vote automatically despite the fact that her husband had been called America’s fist black president by Maya Angelou and others.
“What have the Clintons done to earn such devotion?” asks Alexander. “Did they take extreme political risks to defend the rights of African Americans?”
The primary results also invited some critiques of folks in the media who’d made various projections about the campaign, especially whether Trump’s following could translate to actual votes.
“In a rational world, this stunning development would be a career-ender for many high-profile people who didn’t see it coming despite massive evidence indicating that it would,” wrote John Ziegler at Mediaite. “However, as someone who has been right many times only to suffer career damage from it, I fully realize, as Trump’s victory itself illustrates, we don’t live in a universe where rationality usually has much power or credibility or any real significance.”