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The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Conquered the New Hampshire Primaries

There wasn't a lot of drama in Tuesday night's New Hampshire primaries, but the country edged just a tiny bit closer to a Trump–Sanders showdown in the general election.

by Harry Cheadle
Feb 10 2016, 2:43am

A Donald Trump supporter holds up a foam finger at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

There wasn't much drama in the New Hampshire presidential primary on Tuesday night. Every poll showed Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders ahead in the Republican and Democratic races, respectively, and every poll turned out to be pretty much right on that score. Just after 8 PM—while some people were still waiting in long lines to vote as the polls closed—news outlets started calling the results, and the only mystery that remained was which Republican candidates would outperform their poll numbers, and which ones would disappoint.

The New Hampshire primary has always been an odd second stop on the campaign, with candidates courting the tiny state's voters individually and in small groups. But this time around it was basically a reality TV show. In the final 24 hours before votes were cast, Ohio Governor John Kasich served breakfast at a diner, Donald Trump sorta called Ted Cruz a "pussy," Marco Rubio was followed around by protesters dressed as robots who later apparently got into some kind of scrape with his supporters, and Bernie Sanders couldn't find the car that was supposed to pick him up from a campaign stop. Everything seemed to be newsworthy; nothing in particular seemed to be happening. The state's primary is particularly difficult to predict, thanks to the rule that allows independents to cast ballots in either party's contest, so for a while, the political world was giddy with possibility.

Now all those possibilities have collapsed, leaving us with a fairly strange situation. Sanders, who won nearly 60 percent of the Democratic vote, continues to look strong against former heir apparent Hillary Clinton. Trump, with almost 40 percent support among Republican voters, continues to prove that his frontrunner status isn't a mirage or some kind of complicated prank. Kasich, who essentially invested all of his energy and money in New Hampshire, came in a surprising second in the GOP race, with about 16 percent. Jeb Bush, whose campaign has so far been a series of unfortunate events, won around 10 percent, enough support that he can stay in the race and see if he can win over his party's base. Cruz came in with about 12 percent, Rubio earned 10 percent—a disappointing fifth place after his strong showing in Iowa—and the rest couldn't get above single digits.

The primary process hasn't yet become a full-on reality show, so no one is getting voted off, but some GOP candidates will soon decide that the constant public humiliation of running for president isn't worth it. Ben Carson's campaign has said he won't drop out before South Carolina, but Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie haven't attracted much in the way of votes and might soon hang it up. (Christie all but announced his exit on Tuesday night.)

Trump, who knows something about reality TV competitions, has to be feeling good: Rubio, who looked like a possible Establishment counterweight to the extremism of Trump and Cruz, had a bad night, and it's hard at this point to imagine Kasich (who hasn't polled well outside of New Hampshire) or Jeb! suddenly gaining traction. With every day that Trump leads in the polls, while his opposition remains fragmented, it seems more and more likely that he's actually going to get the nomination. That would make for good TV, but bad reality.

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