Granite State Democrats may have gotten most of the attention, but it’s Republicans who feel like they had a very good First in the Nation primary night.
While the Democrats’ storyline out of New Hampshire involves the embarrassing underperformance of a two-term vice president who fled the field, and the possibility of a self-described socialist on the ticket, Tuesday’s results indicated a GOP that’s unified and energized.
Two numbers loom large from Tuesday’s tallies: Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Democratic contest with the smallest share of the primary vote (25.8 percent) for any New Hampshire winner in history; and Donald Trump received more votes (129,738) than any incumbent — and the highest percentage for one since President Reagan in 1984 (86 percent).
Overall turnout in New Hampshire, 457,040, set a new record a primary in which an incumbent president was running on one side or the other. “If you compare this election to the others where presidents were running for reelection, this is much, much higher,” Secretary of State Bill Gardner said.
Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale says these numbers are an important achievement because Trump is “beating the last three incumbent presidents — Clinton, Bush, and Obama — who were successfully re-elected. The intensity of Trump supporters is incredible.”
Democrats are touting their record-setting 300,622 turnout (breaking the 2008 record of 288,672), and after disappointing numbers in the Iowa Caucus, with good reason. However, they also had five well-known contenders driving up turnout, along with a millionaire, a billionaire, a former governor of a neighboring state and a Hawaiian congresswoman who literally moved to New Hampshire. And there are nearly 78,000 more eligible voters (Democrats and unaffiliated) than in 2008 when the previous record was set, giving Democrats a larger population to draw from.
Republicans had an incumbent president who, for all practical purposes, was unopposed. While former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld might take himself seriously, few others do. The 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate couldn’t get to double digits in New Hampshire Tuesday. And by failing to break the 10 percent threshold, Weld won’t receive a single delegate.
Weld has pledged to remain in the campaign through at least Super Tuesday.
New Hampshire state GOP Chairman Steve Stepanek is pleased. “What the primary showed was phenomenal support, not just for Donald Trump but for the entire party,” Stepanek told NHJournal at a crowded victory party Tuesday night in Bedford. “The energy we’ve seen, at the rally and in the primary, is off the charts. There’s an enthusiasm here for Republicans that’s not here for the Democrats.
“These people don’t just want to support the president, they want to work for the president and the party.”
Exit polls from Tuesday show a Republican base that’s happy with President Trump and his performance. Almost 90 percent of GOP primary voters said they are either “enthusiastic” or “satisfied” with the Trump administration and 95 percent say the national economy is either “excellent” or “good.”
One of those Trump supporters is Jenny Cheifetz of Bedford, N.H., who was at the GOP’s election night celebration. She predicts that in the general election, President Trump will do well in the affluent, suburban communities of southern New Hampshire, and it’s all about the economy. “When people ask me about supporting Trump, I ask ‘How’s your portfolio doing?’ If we make a change, how are you going to afford to raise your kids?”
The general trend nationally has been an increase in both the level of Trump’s support and an increase in the number of Americans identifying as Republican, according to Gallup.
“And when the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders, Republicans are going to win in New Hampshire by a landslide,” Stepanek said.