Sanders Steals Momentum With Big Win In New Hampshire

Feb 9, 2016

The Concord High School gymnasium is generally the home of the Crimson Tide. The maroon banners hanging from the white cinder block walls here pay tribute to past sporting glories.

But on Tuesday night the house belonged to Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator trounced his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the nation’s first presidential primary.

Hundreds of his fans cheered from retractable wooden bleachers as the Vermont senator thanked supporters for a 20-point victory over Hillary Clinton.

“We have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California,” Sanders told supporters. “What happened here in New Hampshire in terms of an enthusiastic and aroused electorate, people who came out in large numbers, that is what will happen all over this country.”

And Sanders is hoping voters continue to come out in large numbers – particularly young voters.

A few miles down the road, Hillary Clinton gave her concession speech to a crowd of supporters and volunteers that took a few minutes to warm up after they heard the news of her defeat. She acknowledged that many young voters didn’t go her way.

“I know I have some work to do. Particularly with young people,” she said. “I will repeat what I’ve said. Even if they are not supporting me now, I support them.”

Despite her defeat, Clinton did have the support of members of one New Hampshire group: Latino voters.

Eva Castillo is an election volunteer in Manchester. At the Beech Street School and Community Center Tuesday, she was helping Spanish-speaking voters navigate the election process.

Eva Castillo, left, volunteered to help Spanish-speaking voters at the polls in Manchester on primary day.

She said the voters she’d been helping, more often than not, were for Hillary Clinton.

“The people that I’ve spoken to are mainly, with a couple exceptions, they are voting for Hillary,” she said. “The campaign has really done a wonderful job reaching out to the Latino community from way back.”

Castillo said the Latino community in Manchester also heard from the Bernie Sanders campaign, but only recently. But she said the Clinton campaign made contact earlier. That outreach, she said, is very important to Latino voters.

“The candidates on both sides of the aisle, they cannot pretend that Latinos are going to vote at the last minute for somebody that they have not heard of and that has not taken the time to get involved with them,” she said.

The number one issue with the voters she worked with is immigration, Castillo said. And those voters were most worried about the idea of Donald Trump – the Republican victor in the New Hampshire primary – making it to the White House.

These are some of the same groups of voters that Clinton needs in states where people of color make up larger proportions of the electorate than in Iowa and New Hampshire.

At Concord High School Tuesday evening, Joe Shields basked in the glow of a victory he says shouldn’t have caught so many by surprise. Shields grew up in Brooklyn, New York, not far away from Sanders’ childhood home.

“So Bernie and me came from the same hood,” he said. “And Bernie is saying a lot of things that need to be said.”

Shields says the win serves notice to the establishment politicians and mainstream media: “That you don’t pick who the president of the Unites States is, and smugly sit on TV and condescendingly tell us that he doesn’t have a chance, and he’s not a serious candidate, and marginalize him. And now you’re all eating crow.”

And if Bernie Sanders does turn out to be the Democratic nominee in 2016, even the most die-hard Clinton supporters might get on board.

Sanford Leavenworth of Bedford, N.H. parked his campaign sign outside of the Beech Street School in Manchester.

  Sanford Leavenworth left his home in Bedford, New Hampshire Tuesday morning to drive around Manchester hauling a trailer with a larger-than-life Hillary Clinton logo splashed across each side. He said he’s been a longtime supporter of Clinton’s, but if Sanders is the nominee, the trailer is in for a makeover.

“I’ll re-vamp that thing to say Bernie Sanders on it, no question at all,” he said. “I’ve been knocking doors for the past four months every weekend, multiple shifts every day for Hillary. If he ends up with the nomination, I will do it all over again all through the fall.”

This post has been updated.

VPR’s coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign is made possible in part by the VPR Journalism Fund.