CNN just called it: Donald Trump has won New Hampshire’s 2016 Republican presidential primary. This is not a drill. I repeat: This is not a drill.
We’ll have to wait until all the votes are tallied to see whether this is a disaster for the Republican Party or just a massive debacle. But regardless of how the final standings shake out for the establishment-backed foursome of Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie, the big story leaving New Hampshire will be Trump. He just won a presidential nominating contest run by one of the two major political parties in the United States—an outcome that seemed unthinkable this past summer when many political observers didn’t expect his campaign to last into the fall.
The victory will legitimize Trump’s candidacy in ways that his polling performances and crowd sizes have been unable to. He just bested the best the Republican Party has to offer in a state where his establishment rivals have no excuses, given primary voters there are considerably more moderate than Iowa’s GOP caucus-goers. Trump still has his work cut out for him in future contests, but it’s now impossible to dismiss him as a paper tiger, as many of his rivals were eager to do after he failed to win the Iowa caucus last week.
The real estate tycoon has now gone from polling front-runner to real-life winner of a state where primary voters have backed the past two GOP nominees and four of the past six in contests without an incumbent. Trump has an uncanny ability to steal the media spotlight, but in New Hampshire on Tuesday, he earned it.
Additional Slate coverage of the New Hampshire primary:
- Why Bernie Sanders’ Victory Is a Really Big Deal
- John Kasich’s Second-Place Finish Is a Nightmare for the GOP
- Hillary to Voters After Losing: Let’s Get Real, America