Sanders Wins New Hampshire. Next Up: What It Means

Feb 10, 2016

For Bernie Sanders, the New Hampshire Democratic primary was over before his after-party got started.

The gymnasium at Concord High School was not even half-full, and many supporters were still being wanded by the Secret Service when the news broke that, with with just 8 percent of precincts reporting, CNN had declared Sanders the winner.

The roar from the crowd as deafening.

Sanders captured 60 percent of the statewide vote, a convincing margin over Hillary Clinton. His victories were not isolated to the state's liberal strongholds or along the Vermont border. He carried college towns, working-class cities, the North Country and almost the entire southern tier.

Sanders' win had breadth as well.

“Because of a huge voter turnout, and I mean yooge, we won,” Sanders said in his victory speech,  emphasizing his Brooklyn accent to his supporters' delight. "Because we harnessed the energy and the excitement that the Democratic Party will need to succeed in November.”

But as the race now moves to states in the south and west, the question is: Does a Sanders victory in New Hampshire foretell future success?

It didn't take long for the campaign to start looking ahead. Minutes after the race was called, staffers  sent it's large email list of supporters a fresh fundraising appeal. A text followed shortly after, asking for a small-donation.

And in his victory speech, Sanders - who has raised close to $100 million since entering the race - made a pitch himself- $10, $20, $50. Without a super-PAC, he said, the campaign needs small donors to keep it going until Super Tuesday.

Sanders addresses supporters after winning the New Hampshire Primary
Credit Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Sanders delivered an abbreviated version of the stump speech he's been giving for months. But he still managed to go on for nearly a half-hour. And those in the audience -- mostly volunteers and contributors to his campaign -- knew it word for word.

When talking about the size of his average campaign donation, for example, the crowd roared along with him: "$27!"

At Southern New Hampshire University, Clinton told a disappointed, but noisy crowd that she was looking forward to the next stop in the nominating race, South Carolina, where polls have her in the lead.

“And here's what we're going to do,” she said. “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.”

The coming days will almost certainly bring a debate over what Sanders' New Hampshire victory means. Was it his support among younger voters? Or his the next-door-neighbor factor, as the Clinton camp has been arguing for weeks? 

Sanders' staff has pushed back hard against that notion, and last night, Julia Barnes, the campaign's New Hampshire director, called it "a ridiculous argument."

“The truth is," she said, "at the end of the day, we saw success in parts of the state, in precincts, where six months ago when I arrived here in August, people didn't know his name.”