Trump rolls to GOP win; Kasich finishes second
Billionaire businessman and celebrity Donald Trump won the New Hampshire Republican primary Tuesday, notching his first victory in one wild and nontraditional presidential campaign.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich came in second place, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was third, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was fourth, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was fifth. Gov. Chris Christie said he would head back to New Jersey and “take a deep breath” after coming in sixth. Dr. Ben Carson skipped his own party at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua to go to South Carolina.
“We are going to make America great again,” Trump said at his victory party in Manchester. After taking a moment to pay homage to his late parents, the audience broke into chants of “USA, USA, USA.”
Trump thanked New Hampshire voters for their support. “You started it,” he said. “Remember, you started it.”
It was a runaway for Trump, who amassed double the vote totals of his nearest rival. Trump’s loudmouthed, anti-establishment candidacy struck a nerve with the nation’s first primary voters, and it left other candidates duking it out for runner-up, and political survival.
Kasich said his candidacy is an opportunity for people to be involved with something that’s bigger than their own lives, to restore America and leave no one behind.
“There’s something that’s going on, that I’m not sure that anybody can quite understand,” he said. “There’s magic in the air with this campaign. We don’t see it as just another campaign.”
Trump won in a landslide with 98,316 votes. Kasich had 44,292. The next three were within 3,000 votes of one another: Cruz with 32,473, Bush with 30,790, and Rubio with 29,439. Christie had 20,805, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina came in with 11,625, and Carson was eighth with 6,370.
In his speech at Manchester Community College, Bush took a few veiled shots at GOP frontrunner Trump.
“We need a President with a strong hand, a President who doesn’t believe it’s all about himself,” he said.
Trump racked up big gains across the state. He handily won Concord, Laconia, and Manchester. Towns in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties were Trump territory. In Hampstead, for example, he had 1,071 votes to Kasich’s 352. In Hudson, he earned 2,258, with Cruz trailing at 641, and Kasich at 593.
Trump only lost in more liberal towns, like Peterborough, and only by a slim margin.
Where Trump topped polls for months, political observers in recent days said it was not if Trump wins, but by how much because other well-known candidates would split up the vote.
“We could see it coming like a freight train,” said Juliana Bergeron, Republican National Committeewoman from Keene. “People are tired of politics as usual. We have all heard that.”
And Trump said that loudly everywhere he went.
Kasich’s efforts to stick with a positive message buoyed his campaign in the Granite State, where he held more than 100 town hall meetings. It paid off.
“He doesn’t vilify anyone,” said Karen Mason of Greenfield, a registered Republican and former English professor. “He did what he said he was going to do and is a man of his word. He seems like a true populist.”
Awaiting primary results at Kasich’s party at the Grappone Center in Concord, Susan Parker of Greenfield said Kasich has not forgotten about “the little guy,” regardless of all his success.
Asked about Trump, Parker said, “He’s being judged by the standards people use to decide whether or not they like an entertainer or a celebrity compared to standards people have to assess whether or not they like someone who wants to be President of the United States.”
Trump, Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina tried to claim the mantle of Washington outsider while Christie was locked into a battle with Kasich and Bush to be “the last governor standing.” Each governor cited their record and executive leadership, making overt references to the first-term U.S. senators in the race, Rubio and Cruz.
There remains an open audition in the GOP for an alternative to Trump. Bush supporters hold out hope that he is the one with the staying power.
Supporters gathered at his primary party broke out in cheers upon seeing early results showing Bush in third.
“This is huge,” said Tim Bosman of Derry. “Nobody would have predicted this four, maybe five days ago. No one saw third place coming.”
George Lavalle of Groton, Mass., remains convinced that Cruz is it.
“It seems like Trump has won the state, but hopefully Cruz will do well,” Lavalle said at the Cruz party in Hollis. “His supporters are still energetic and in good spirits.”
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, a state co-chairman for Cruz, said his candidate had a good showing thanks to conservative, grassroots support.
“We have worked hard and it is a long run,” Smith said at Alpine Grove in Hollis. “There are a lot of primaries and a lot of battles, and this is a very important one — one of many.”
Christie’s strong performance in the debate three nights prior, specifically his expert deconstruction of Rubio’s political resume, appears to have blunted Rubio’s surge after a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. It came too late for Christie.
“We came here to say that speaking your mind matters, that experience matters, that competence matters,” Christie said in his speech Tuesday night.
Then he turned philosophical. “I have both won elections that I was supposed to lose, and I’ve lost elections I was supposed to win,” he said. “It’s both the magic and the mystery of politics that you never quite know when which is going to happen, even when you think you do. And so we leave New Hampshire tonight without an ounce of regret.”
Christie said he and his family would fly back to New Jersey on Wednesday to get a handle on the final New Hampshire results and figure out the campaign’s next steps.
Christie’s supporters were deflated upon seeing the early results. “I’d like him to be higher than all the polls are saying,” said Shari Shaw of Amherst. “I don’t know if you can trust the polls.”
To Jeannie Teller of Bedford, the Trump and Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders wins were indicative of a restless electorate. “People are really sick and tired of what we’ve had,” she said.
Rubio supporters at his primary night party at the Radisson in Manchester were resolute, however.
Lloyd Connors of Litchfield said he supports Rubio based on electability.
“That’s the biggest factor for me,” he said. “I think, more than anyone else in the GOP, he could bring the country together.”
Rubio, 44, attracted a number of younger voters in his primary push.
Allison Totten, 19, of Rochester was in line to attend Rubio’s campaign party at the Radisson in downtown Manchester.
“This is my first primary,” said Totten. “I was excited to vote today.”
Totten said she decided over the weekend who to vote for, choosing Rubio because of his message.
“I really think the country is at a crossroads, and I think Marco is the right choice,” said Totten. “I think his family values will influence his decisions as President.”
A total of 23 delegates are at stake in the New Hampshire primary. South Carolina holds the next primary on Feb. 20, then the Nevada caucuses Feb. 23, followed by 12 states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, on March 1.
Union Leader Staff Writers Paul Feely and Mike Cousineau and Union Leader Correspondents Kim Houghton and Eli Okun contributed to this story.