Littwin: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump’s New Hampshire revolution

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders win New Hampshire.

The winners in the New Hampshire primaries were, as you might have heard, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. In related news, the world has turned upside down.

Yes, it’s just as big as that.

Neither result was a surprise – for once the polls were dead on – but both results are still hugely shocking. The only question at this stage of the race is which party establishment is more panicked by which brand of populist (the Bernie kind or the billionaire kind).

As I write this, Sanders sits at around 60 percent of the vote and didn’t just win 85 percent – yes, 85 percent – of the 18 to 29 vote, he won men, he won women, he won dogs, he won cats, he beat the Clintons, he beat the hell-bent women-shamers, he beat establishment politics, he beat the odds. No, Bernie clobbered the odds. He might have even won the African-American vote if, in fact, New Hampshire had any African-Americans to speak of.

Worse, for those in the Democratic establishment anyway, the Sanders campaign has successfully tagged Hillary Clinton as a well-paid friend to Wall Street — a tag she will spend the rest of the campaign trying to figure out how to live down. Imagine how bad it would be if Sanders had actually gone negative. Instead, it was the Big Dog who went negative against Bernie, and you saw where that got the Clintons.

Yes, the smart money says that Clinton is still the heavy favorite, that she has a lock on the minority vote (Latinos in Nevada; blacks in South Carolina) and that, at some point, voters will figure out that Sanders can’t win in a general election. But who’s to say minority voters, given the chance, might not feel the Bern? Besides, once you lose New Hampshire by 20 points, as Clinton has, inevitability becomes a much harder sell.

Still, for those of us who dismissed Sanders as a summer fling – that might have been me — it’s now the dead of winter, Clinton may be shaking up her campaign, and by March 15, there will have been something like 30 more states in play. I don’t know that Sanders can keep up. I don’t know how he’ll sell in the South. I don’t know how he’ll sell in states where he’s still a relatively unknown quantity. But this kind of win guarantees at least a few things — that the race is going to last for a while and that Sanders’s message, which is attracting many millions of small donors and many millions of dollars, will get heard. In fact, he’ll be on Colbert tonight.

Which brings us to that other TV star — the Donald. After absorbing an embarrassing loss in Iowa, in which he apparently had either forgotten to put together a ground game or didn’t know what a ground game was, Trump came to New Hampshire as an official loser, which was supposed to put the whole Trump magic to rest. Sure, he still had the xenophobic, sexist, bigoted, wall-building, vulgarity-cheering vote to count on, but, he had to be wondering, would that be enough? Well, it turns out Trump didn’t just win. He doubled up on runner-up John Kasich and left all the would-be front-runners struggling for words (Jeb!: my campaign is “not dead”) and for air (Marco Rubio with his “it’s not on you, it’s on me”).

Trump, meanwhile, reverted to form, telling his supporters, in what amounts to the Trumpian ethos, “We are going to make our country so strong. We are going to start winning again. . . . We don’t win with anything. We are going to start winning again, and we are going to win so much, you are going to be so happy.”

OK, not everyone is happy. Imagine Trump as the GOP nominee. If you can’t, maybe you haven’t been paying enough attention. Something is going on, and no one knows quite what to do about it. New Hampshire was where the Republican elites hoped to find their establishment-lane candidate to rally around. Now, the same pundits who wrote endlessly about GOP lanes are deriding the whole concept. Kasich, who finished second, has little money and little appeal in the next group of states. As I write this, Jeb! is in fourth place, just ahead of Rubio, who was the anointed one before his disastrous debate performance, which he couldn’t quite, uh, dispel.

The hope for Republican elites is that Trump tops out at 35 percent, that he’s the beneficiary of a big field and that eventually the field will narrow. But the problem is that the one best placed to stop Trump is probably Ted Cruz. Let’s consider that again — if it’s not Trump, it could be Cruz. And yeah I’d give Republicans the edge in the panic face-off.

On the Democratic side, we know it’s routine for them to fall in love, at least briefly, with the true-believer lefty in the race. It’s unprecedented, though, when it’s a 74-year-old, don’t-stop-believin’, self-described socialist. Now Sanders’s call for political revolution has won him one state and nearly won him another and he gets a chance to prove that mostly white Iowa and New Hampshire are more than demographic flukes.

Meanwhile, it’s getting late and Clinton is still looking for a message that inspires voters. What she has always counted on is that as the longstanding enemy of Republicans, she’ll be embraced by most Democrats in the end.

So, can Clinton lose? Can Trump win?

History would say no in both cases. But at least for one night, it’s not clear that history has anything much left to say.


Photo credit: Phil Roeder, Creative Commons, Flickr.  Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr.


  1. New Hampshire Democratic votes in 2008: 284,000.
    New Hampshire Democratic votes in 2016: 255,000 (approximately – count is on-going).

    Where’s the revolution?

  2. It’s not unusual for Mr. Littwin’s column to be published twice in three days but these two are unprecedented (historic?) because in each Mr. Littwin admits to making a mistake.

    No, really!

    Monday, Mr. Littwin admitted that he was “very wrong” when suggesting that John Elway would not be as successful as general manager of the Broncos as he had been as the Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback. At the time, Mr Littwin said, “(John Elway) wants the second act that F. Scott Fitzergald(sic) famously wrote that you don’t get in America. ”

    On Wednesday, Mr. Littwin admitted he was wrong in dismissing Senator Sanders as a “(benign) summer fling”.

    Both admissions show a level of journalistic integrity Mr. Littwin has never before displayed and for that he should be applauded. Here’s hoping it continues.

    It does, however, bring into question some of his other political observations. For example, “What (Mrs. Clinton) has always counted on is that as the longstanding enemy of Republicans, she’ll be embraced by most Democrats in the end.”

    He’s walked that back a bit from last April when he seemed far more certain of how Democrats would respond , “The expected attacks on Clinton will bring the base back to her. They always do.”

    And when Mr. Littwin says, “Yes, the smart money says that Clinton is still the heavy favorite, that she has a lock on the minority vote…” it sounds more like a prayer than a certainty.

    Well, today that “lock” seems far less certain. This from The Nation (self-described as “the flagship of the left”) in an article written by Michelle Alexander and titled “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote”:

    ”Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.

    Some might argue that it’s unfair to judge Hillary Clinton for the policies her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasn’t picking out china while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from that era, should be scrutinized. In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals. “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.” “

    This from the Weekly Standard:
    “The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates said in an interview with Democracy Now! that he would vote for Bernie Sanders in this year’s Democratic primary. Coates is a favorite writer of President Barack Obama.”

    This from NBC News:
    “Harry Belafonte has endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, NBC News has learned.”

    Keep in mind, too, that the Big (Attack) Dog campaigned extensively for his wife in New Hampshire apparently to no avail.

    But he did wear a really cool plaid lumberjack shirt.

    “Oh, he’s a lumberjack and he’s okay.
    He sleeps all night and works all day”


    “So. Nevada. Clinton’s firewall? That’s what they say. It’s supposed to be the state where Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook will work his magic, as Mother Jones reported Wednesday. Mook ran Clinton’s effort there in 2008. She won then. But times are clearly different now. I don’t think for a minute that Nevada is a Clinton cakewalk, especially not after the shellacking she took Tuesday.” = Michael Tomasky Daily Beast

    “Hillary Clinton has an honesty problem.

    That point is driven home hard in the exit poll following Clinton’s 22-point drubbing at the hands of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. More than one in three (34 percent) of all New Hampshire Democratic primary voters said that honesty was the most important trait in their decision on which candidate to support. Of that bloc, Sanders won 92 percent of their votes as compared to just 6 percent for Clinton.

    Ninety-two to six. That is absolutely unbelievable — even given the size of Sanders’s overall victory in the state. And it should be deeply concerning to a Clinton campaign that has been resistant to acknowledging the idea that the ongoing controversy over Clinton’s private email server while at the State Department is a problem for her.” – Washington Post

    “Yes, the hard truth is that Hillary Clinton is a terrible campaigner who is living in a different era.” – Bill Maher

    “And with her opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, outdrawing her in support among young women, Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy has turned into a generational clash, one that erupted this weekend when two feminist icons, Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem, called on young women who supported Mr. Sanders to essentially grow up and get with the program.” – New York Times

    “ There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” – Madeleine Albright

    “Ms. (Gloria) Steinem, 81, one of the most famous spokeswomen of the feminist movement, took the sentiment a step further on Friday in an interview with the talk show host Bill Maher.

    Explaining that women tend to become more active in politics as they become older, she suggested that younger women were backing Mr. Sanders just so they could meet young men.

    “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said.” – New York Times

    “Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has erased Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s wide lead for the Democratic presidential nomination since the start of year, putting the two in a dead heat nationally, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
    Clinton leads Sanders 48 percent to 45 percent among Democratic voters, according to the poll of 512 Americans, conducted Feb. 2-5 following the Iowa caucus. The poll has a credibility interval of 5 percentage points.” – Reuters

    “In the Democratic race nationwide, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has 44 percent, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 42 percent, and 11 percent undecided. This compares to a 61 – 30 percent Clinton lead in a December 22 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll.” – Quinnipiac University

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Memorial Day – May 30, 2016

Comments are closed.