After Sound Defeat in New Hampshire, Clinton Focuses on the Long Game

Feb 10, 2016

When Hillary Clinton spoke to the crowd at Southern New Hampshire University last night, she quickly addressed the bad news for her campaign.

“I want to begin by congratulating Senator Sanders on his victory tonight and I want to thank each and every one of you. And I want to say, I still love New Hampshire and I always will.”

Clinton may still have fond feelings for New Hampshire, but Granite Staters handed the former Secretary of State a big defeat. Over 20 percentage points separated her and Bernie Sanders, and even places like Manchester and Rochester, which Clinton won easily in 2008, chose Sanders by comfortable – sometimes huge - margins. Voters in these blue collar, working class cities swarmed to Sanders’ side.

But Clinton and her supporters, who gathered in a gymnasium at SNHU, were more interested in looking ahead than dissecting yesterday’s loss in New Hampshire.

“Now we take this campaign to the entire country. We’re going to fight for every vote in every state, we’re going to fight for real solutions that make a real difference in people’s lives.”

For those who came out to support Clinton there was a sense of disappointment but also confidence that she’ll win out in the end. Many like Alex Savard of Concord downplayed the significance of Sander’s victory.

“I think tonight is a bump in the road that everybody saw coming, watching the polls and considering Bernie’s popularity here, from the very beginning.”

Others like Sarah Dustin of Contoocook argued that New Hampshire wasn’t the best stage for Clinton to make her case.

“This is a funny state. I’d like to see what the rest of the country will be doing.”

Clinton's supporters rally at her campaign's primary night headquarters in Manchester
Credit Keith Spiro for NHPR

Clinton is polling ahead of Sanders in the next two nominating contests, South Carolina and Nevada. And Sanders has yet to be tested with minority voters. But as UNH political scientist Dante Scala points out, the results from last night expose a weakness in Clinton’s coalition.

“Even if Clinton wins the nomination, the fact that she did so poorly among blue collar white voters is a warning sign for the general election.”

But before anyone wins a nomination, there’s likely to be a long primary process ahead. And Scala says Clinton is likely to change tack.

“She’s been hesitant to go negative; she’s been hesitant to draw very strong contrasts between herself and Senator Sanders. I think that’s going to change.”

One thing that has already changed for Clinton -- she’s now running from behind.