New Hampshire gets to call itself "first in the nation," despite being the second state in the presidential nominating contest, because it's the first place that holds something remotely resembling an election. It has none of the coin tosses or state delegate equivalents that make the Iowa caucuses so weird.
But the New Hampshire primary, even though it delivered somewhat predictable results, was not free of drama. The first sign that it was going to be a historic night Tuesday came from the small town of Merrimack, where the “line” to get into the local voting precinct was actually a 2-mile traffic jam that wound onto the local highway.
The turnout in Merrimack and other precincts broke records, but local elections officials were expecting it, and eventually they got everyone who had been in the traffic jam by 7 p.m. into the polling booth as planned.
That, as it turns out, is a perfect representation of the primary—excitement and suspense, even though everything more or less happened the way we expected it to.
Sen. Bernie Sanders won a decisive victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. With 89% of precincts reporting by Wednesday morning, Sanders led Clinton by more than 20 percentage points, 60% to 38%. The results were so good for Sanders that news outlets called the race within seconds of the polls closing, allowing Sanders time to shoot hoops before his speech.
Though Bernie’s victory was not contested by any of the major news outlets, a battle between left-leaning and right-leaning media did emerge over the best way to mispronounce his name. The subconscious of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly painted a picture of Sanders as an effete, if slightly untrendy, Northeasterner when she referred to the candidate live on air as “Bernie Sandals.” The subconscious of MSNBC’s Chris Hayes emphasized Sanders’ working-class background by identifying him as “Bernie Sandwiches.” No word yet from the campaign on which the senator prefers.
Sanders becomes first non-Christian ever to win a presidential primary, though not every American may see it that way. According to Pew data collected before Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary in 2012, 32% of Americans did not consider Mormons to be Christians. (Side note: Those people are wrong.)
Even though Sanders had been leading in the polls by 10 to 26 percentage points, the outcome still managed to defy expectations in the media. The folks in Clintonland had spent the past week appearing on every cable news outlet they could, trying both to turn out New Hampshire voters and play down expectations that, based on the last few polls, the race was tightening. They failed on both fronts. If that wasn’t enough, the Clinton campaign also had a bit of a rough day in the media leading up to the primary.
Earlier on Tuesday, Gawker posted a 2009 email exchange that clearly showed a senior official at the State Department throwing his weight around to shape the editorial “tone” of a reporter’s story on Clinton. Then-State Department spokesman Philippe Reines went so far as to demand that Clinton’s policies be described as “muscular” and to instruct the reporter not to say he was “blackmailed.” (The reporter told Gawker that the exchange "made me uncomfortable then, and it makes me uncomfortable today.")
On the Republican side, the results were similarly historic, though not in a way everyone was comfortable with. Donald Trump won a commanding victory, prompting media outlets to try to one-up each other with the most ostentatious headline denouncing the candidate. While readers of the New York Daily News will be tilting their heads trying to interpret the visual mixed metaphor of Donald Trump: Zombie Juggalo, Huffington Post readers will have a much easier time discerning what that outlet thinks about the candidate.
But of course, it wouldn’t be a Republican primary with just one winner, and sure enough the media anointed second-place finisher John Kasich as the also-kind-of-a-winner of the week. That “victory” for Kasich came after the precipitous fall of last week’s also-kind-of-a-winner, Marco Rubio, who was discovered over the weekend to be a robot. (Despite recent demographic shifts, robots remain a very small proportion of the American electorate.)
Other losers on the Republican side include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who managed to finish well behind the rest of the “establishment” pack after going out of his way to tank Rubio's candidacy in last week's debate. Christie is returning to New Jersey to re-evaluate his campaign.
Now the race splits from its heretofore shared primary schedule. Democrats head to Nevada, and Republicans set their sights on South Carolina. And, because the media will undoubtedly spend the next 11 days focusing all its attention on the electoral prospects of Bernie Sanders and John Kasich, I thought I’d include this video of the two of them bickering with each other in 1995, just for the hell of it.