By Niall Stanage - 02/10/16 01:12 AM EST
The New Hampshire primary lived up to its reputation for drama on Tuesday.
Who departs on a high, and whose hopes were dashed by the Granite State?
Businessman Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCould President Hillary heal a divided nation? Trump lands first major newspaper endorsement Clinton: Trump's election talk poses 'threat to our democracy' MORE (R) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersCould President Hillary heal a divided nation? Clinton camp oppo research: Sanders has 'no accomplishments' Heck's rejection of Trump imperils Nevada Senate race MORE (I-Vt.)
They won, of course. But for both men, the good news went deeper than just taking first place in their respective primaries.
If there was any doubt that the Trump phenomenon is real, his performance on Tuesday erased it.
For Sanders, the sheer margin of his victory was crucial. He handed Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonCould President Hillary heal a divided nation? Trump lands first major newspaper endorsement Clinton: Trump's election talk poses 'threat to our democracy' MORE a shellacking. With more than 85 percent of precincts reporting, Sanders led Clinton by 21 percentage points.
That is enough to knock the Clinton campaign on its heels and to amplify the rumblings of discontent in her orbit.
Courtesy of his army of small-dollar contributors, Sanders already had a lot of money. Now he has a huge win. Together that guarantees the Democratic contest will go on for some time.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)
The battle among establishment Republicans in New Hampshire was fierce — and Kasich won it.
The Ohio governor virtually camped out in the state, pinning all his hopes on its love of idiosyncratic candidates who don’t toe the party line. He held more than 100 town hall meetings, respecting Granite Staters’ famous love of retail politicking.
That, a solid debate showing on Saturday night and days of bad press for Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioNew York Times endorses Rubio's rival Rubio: GOP Congress could go in different direction than Trump Poll: Clinton holds 4-point lead in Florida MORE (Fla.) combined to deliver a second-place finish for Kasich.
But he faces a an uphill fight in the Feb. 20 South Carolina primary and in the Deep South states that are among those voting on March 1.
Still, this was a moral victory for the governor.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
As of midnight, the winner of last week’s Iowa caucuses was not assured even of a third-place finish in New Hampshire — yet he is sitting pretty nonetheless.
For starters, Cruz’s own result was at the upper end of expectations in a state that is not usually kind to social conservatives like him.
Perhaps more importantly, his rivals' fates seem set to work to his advantage.
Rubio suffered a body blow with his likely fifth-place finish, an outcome that also delays the prospect of anyone becoming the chosen candidate of the GOP establishment. Kasich, who performed better on Tuesday, is less of a threat to Cruz over the long haul.
Friendlier territory is beckoning for Cruz. Trump aside, no direct rival has any real momentum.
The media (and other politics-watchers)
There’s nothing the news media hates more than a dominant candidate’s dull march to the nomination. That outcome was averted on Tuesday, with a result that complicates the Republican race immensely and deals a significant hit to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.
The fun continues.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R)
Bush avoided humiliation, but he hardly transformed himself into a real contender for the Republican presidential nomination.
He was lagging behind Cruz for third place late on Tuesday night, though the margin between them was so small that he could yet overtake the Texas senator.
Bush has been at risk of becoming a figure of pity during this campaign. He will now hope for a resurgence in South Carolina, the state where his brother repelled Sen. John McCainJohn McCainIs Georgia turning blue? High anxiety for GOP Trump: 'Very disappointed' GOP senator dropped support MORE’s challenge in 2000.
Even so, it requires a very sizable leap of the imagination to see him as the eventual GOP nominee.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)
The Democratic front-runner got crushed.
Clinton aides have been working overtime in recent weeks to minimize Sanders's victory, placing great emphasis on his political base in Vermont, the state next door.
But that doesn’t explain away the scale of the senator's win, which will spark further speculation about why Clinton is having such difficulty bringing Democrats to her side despite her myriad advantages.
Team Clinton believes that upcoming contests in Nevada, South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, March 1, will deliver big victories that will right her ship.
That might prove true — but it doesn’t change the fact that Tuesday’s result was a dismal one for Clinton.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
How different it might have been.
Rubio came out of Iowa with the wind at his back, thanks to a strong third-place in the GOP caucuses there.
But he came undone in spectacular fashion at a Saturday night debate in Manchester, N.H., repeating a talking point about President Obama several times. Mockery that labeled him “Robot Rubio” rained down, and his momentum melted away.
Rubio seems fated to a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire. The Florida senator is far from dead in the water; he has the money and the political skills to come back, especially in such a fluid GOP field. But this was a very serious setback.
New Jersey Gov Chris Christie (R)
It was Christie who embarrassed Rubio at Saturday’s debate, but the combative New Jersey governor saw no dividends when the votes were counted. He trailed in sixth, ahead of only businesswoman Carly Fiorina, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, the latter of whom is barely campaigning.
Christie plans to return to New Jersey on Wednesday to evaluate the future of his campaign. It would be a surprise if he decided to stay in the race.
Trump’s bid has never been taken seriously in some quarters, with his demise predicted every step of the way.
When Trump’s poll ratings failed to crater, the pundits said that he would meet his Waterloo as soon as actual contests took place. His New Hampshire victory is a powerful rebuttal to that notion.
Sanders's insurgent campaign was not mocked quite as savagely as Trump's, but there were plenty of people inside the Beltway who rolled their eyes at the thought of a 74-year-old democratic socialist drawing significant support.
He did so on Tuesday, routing a former secretary of State from the most powerful family in Democratic politics.
The New Hampshire Union Leader
The state’s biggest newspaper, which leans conservative in its editorial stances, endorsed Christie for president in late November. The editorial, penned by publisher Joseph McQuaid, called the New Jersey governor “the one candidate who has the range and type of experience the nation desperately needs.”
About 7 percent of voters in the GOP primary agreed with that. Five times as many voters opted for Trump. McQuaid is one name on the long list of people with whom Trump has feuded. The business mogul called the publisher “lowlife” and “absolutely terrible”.
The result is embarrassing for McQuaid and a vindication for Trump.
The magazine that sees itself as the keeper of the flame for conservative intellectuals lambasted Trump a few weeks back. The publication's editors called him “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus.”
So far, Republican voters aren’t listening.