What a party.

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Trump and Sanders Won New Hampshire, Not the White House

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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The pollsters got it right for a change. Donald Trump, the Republican outsider, won solidly in New Hampshire over a divided field, while Bernie Sanders, the Democratic insurgent, won in a landslide over Hillary Clinton.

Sanders needed to win big if he had any chance at all of winning his party's nomination because New Hampshire played to all of his strengths. He is a senator from the state next door. He did well among independents, who are allowed to vote in party primaries in New Hampshire. In many other states, the party primaries are open only to registered Democrats or Republicans, and that is expected to benefit Clinton. Also, New Hampshire is largely white, so her strength with minority voters was not a factor. 

The big advantage for Sanders over the next few weeks is that we're about to have a media freak-out about Hillary Clinton and her chances. It will be largely unjustified. No, she will not sweep all 50 states, as Al Gore did in 2000, but nothing so far suggests her polling leads in coming primaries are phony. 

Is it possible that black and Latino voters will suddenly #FeeltheBern? It isn't clear what would make that happen. We'll begin to find out in Nevada, the next stop for the Democrats, on Feb. 20. 

Trump, too, had advantages in New Hampshire, since evangelical and very conservative voters make up a much smaller percentage of the Republican electorate than in most states. The biggest advantage for Trump, however, is that neither Marco Rubio nor Ted Cruz nor anyone else capitalized on the Iowa results to break out of the pack. Trump received about a third of the vote. Polling suggests that in a more typical Republican state he'll perform more the way he did in Iowa and fail to reach 30 percent.

That isn't going to be enough once the Repubican field consolidates.

And, yes, it will consolidate. New Hampshire probably knocked out only Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina. They may straggle along through South Carolina, but neither will have the resources to compete going forward. That narrows the field to six candidates, with one -- Ben Carson -- barely still above water. 

John Kasich and Christie put their bets on New Hampshire, and Kasich managed a second-place finish. But it wasn't a particularly impressive one: The Ohio governor failed to reach 20 percent. He has little campaign presence elsewhere. Nor does it seem likely resources will flood toward him, even after he edged out Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. 

Cruz, Bush and Rubio all leave New Hampshire in a jumble. But they're unlikely to remain that way for long since South Carolina Republicans vote on Feb. 20. 

We're going to hear more speculation that Trump will either now win everywhere, or that we're headed for a contested convention with no candidate winning an overall delegate majority. Don't believe it. In four of the last five contest Republican contests, four candidates received at least 10 percent of the South Carolina vote, but eventually the logic of place-order finishes continued to knock out losers until a winner emerged.

No, those elections didn't have a Trump. But Cruz, Kasich, Rubio and Bush would each defeat Trump one-on-one, and nothing that happened in New Hampshire or in Iowa has changed the way this works. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net