GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and Democrat outsider Bernie Sanders cruised to first place on Tuesday while Ohio Governor John Kasich won a three-way contest for second place. Trump, a brash billionaire reality TV star who has never run for office, and Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, were seen as long-shot outsiders when they launched their campaigns.
Their victories reflect deep bipartisan discontent at professional politicians and suggest that both the Democratic and Republican races will now be long struggles that could stretch well into the spring. Trump’s win Tuesday, following a second-place finish in Iowa last week, seals Trump’s position as a legitimate candidate for the Republican nomination and all but ensures a more prolonged primary fight as the GOP candidates turn their attention to the South Carolina primary in less than two weeks.
Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who hails from neighboring Vermont, had battled fiercely with consensus front-runner Hillary Clinton this week since losing by a razor-thin margin in last week’s Iowa contest. Clinton cast Sanders as an unrealistic zealot for progressive purity without adequate experience to govern a divided country, and former President Bill Clinton suggested that some of Sanders’ supporters used sexist language in opposing his wife’s presidential bid. Speaking to enthusiastic supporters, Sanders maintained the central themes of his campaign.
Together we have sent the message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California and that is that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their super PACs,” he said.
Clinton called Sanders shortly after the polls closed at 8:00 p.m. EST to concede. While it was expected based on weeks of polls showing Sanders ahead, the defeat is stinging for the second-time presidential candidate whose presidential ambitions were revived in New Hampshire in 2008.
While Trump entered primary day as the betting favorite, the other candidates jostled for position as part of an overall battle to become the main alternative to the New York billionaire in upcoming Republican contests. Many of the New Hampshire candidates planned to leave immediately for South Carolina, site of the next Republican primary on Feb. 20.
Trump, who campaigned as an outsider and party disrupter, led here in the polls since he officially declared his candidacy in July — a rise that was fueled by voter support for his hard-right immigration proposals and a vague promise to “Make America Great Again.” His win puts him in good position to win the next primary in South Carolina, where he has a 20-point lead over his closest rival, Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Vermont senator’s operation would transition into a national effort targeting multiple states beyond the next two contests in South Carolina and Nevada. Sanders intends to draw sharp differences with Clinton on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and other trade issues which could play into the campaign.