Sanders camp jubilant after big New Hampshire win

2016-02-10 08:53
Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, smiles and waves to the crowd at his primary night rally.  (J David Ake, AP)

Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, smiles and waves to the crowd at his primary night rally. (J David Ake, AP)

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Concord - In a school gymnasium in Concord, jubilant volunteers for Bernie Sanders could not contain their excitement over his double-digit victory in the New Hampshire primary, and the tough battle ahead with Hillary Clinton.

"Bernie, Bernie, Bernie," they screamed at the senator's victory party late on Tuesday, projecting an energy matched only by supporters of the night's Republican winner, Donald Trump.

"Celebrate the Bern, baby!" said Sara Stuart, aged 56, a teaching assistant and local campaign volunteer covered in Bernie badges. "It is huge!"

With 90% of precincts reporting, Sanders won 60% of the Democratic vote compared to 38% for Clinton, the former secretary of state who commands one of the biggest political machines in the country.

Just months ago, the grumpy 74-year-old grandfather promising a "political revolution" was written off as a joke.

But a gathering grassroots campaign and message of addressing profound inequality has stirred up liberal voters, and Sanders is giving Clinton a run for her money.

"It's really history in the making," said Eric Packer, aged 64, a Wall Street-trained investment advisor from Massachusetts who switched from backing Clinton in favor of Sanders last year.

"I think this helps to set the stage for the potential for Bernie to be taken more seriously."

Exit polls showed Sanders beat Clinton among virtually every group, among women and men, in all age groups under 45, among those with and without college degrees, and among gun owners and non-gun owners.

Clinton was ahead only among whites, families earning over $200 000 a year and voters 65 and older, US media reported.

'Revolution'

"What began last week in Iowa, which voters here in New Hampshire confirmed tonight, is nothing short of the beginning of a political revolution," Sanders said as he declared victory.

He appealed for unity within the Democratic party and urged Americans across socio-economic and ethnic groups to join the cause.

"It will bring together blacks and whites, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, straight and gay, male and female, people who were born in America and people who immigrated here," he said.

It was an extraordinary moment for a campaign that pundits initially thought would barely dent a smooth cruise to a Clinton coronation.

But on Tuesday, in a state that chose her over the ultimately victorious Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton conceded defeat.

"I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people," she said. "Even if they are not supporting me now, I support them."

Although most analysts believe Clinton will secure the Democratic nomination thanks to support from the party establishment and ethnic minorities, Sanders is putting his Scandinavian-inspired anti-Wall Street, poverty-busting agenda on the map.

Feel the Bern

The Clinton campaign admitted that Sanders raised $5m more than them last month, underlining his growing sway.

Sanders often extols the fact that more than one million Americans each donated on average $27, totalling $3.7m.

His campaign has a popular winning slogan, "Feel the Bern" has been printed on countless T-shirts, badges, magnets and key rings.

The donations point to a grassroots popularity perhaps matched in this primary season by Trump, who packs thousands into big-venue rallies nationwide and who won the Republican New Hampshire primary.

"The people want real change," said Sanders. "Together, we have sent the message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California."

The decisive test will come in Nevada and South Carolina, more racially diverse states in the west and south, where Clinton's support among blacks and Latinos is expected to defeat Sanders this month.

"This was the first time that the movement actually spoke to me," said Sarah Stevens, aged 28, a New Hampshire substitute teacher involved in politics for the first time, with her boyfriend.

"I do think he can go all the way. I think it comes with the momentum and educating people about what democratic socialism is."

The Republican party establishment, who will have to contend with the dramatic win by their own usurper Trump, was quick to throw salt in Clinton's wounds.

"The prospect that Democrats could nominate a self-avowed socialist is growing more probable by the day," declared Republican National Committee Chairperson Reince Priebus.

Read more on:    bernie sanders  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  us 2016 elections

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