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Trump and Sanders win big in New Hampshire primary

AFP |

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders decisively won presidential primaries in New Hampshire on Tuesday, riding a wave of anti-establishment discontent in the second key test in the unpredictable race for the White House.

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Major US networks gave Trump and self-described democratic socialist Sanders the win, confirming a major – albeit expected – defeat for Hillary Clinton, who put a brave face on the loss and admitted that she had some work to do as the campaign moves on to the next contest in South Carolina.

On the Republican side Ohio Governor John Kasich staked a claim to second place, a potentially game-changing result for him as the GOP tries to decide which mainstream candidate can successfully mount a challenge against populist billionaire Trump.

The real estate mogul, who appeared to have garnered more than double the support of his nearest rivals, did what he had to do: secure a solid win after a second-place finish in Iowa that called into question his viability as a candidate for the long haul.

'Momentarily gracious' Trump takes New Hampshire

Sanders addressed a raucous crowd of supporters at his victory party in Concord, saying his primary win signaled that voters no longer wanted business as usual in US political life.

"What the people here have said is that, given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for the same old, same old establishment politics and establishment economics. The people want real change," he said.

"Together, we have sent the message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington, from Maine to California."

Over at Trump headquarters, the crowd chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

"We are going now to South Carolina. We're going to win in South Carolina," Trump said.

His win reinforced his position as the man to beat on the Republican side.

"He seems to be speaking for the silent majority," said auto mechanic Chris Skora after voting for the real estate magnate.

"A lot of us feel that way and it seems like in this day and age, we can't say these things with the PC (political correctness) police all around."

A 'message' to America

Exit polls showed Sanders winning every demographic group -- a stunning result for an independent lawmaker and a potential warning sign for Clinton as she turns the campaign towards the next states that vote, South Carolina and Nevada.

"I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people," Clinton conceded, as she recognised the American electorate's fury with establishment politics.

"People have every right to be angry," she said. "But they're also hungry, they're hungry for solutions."

'A rough result for Hillary Clinton'

Once every four years the nation's focus turns to New Hampshire, the small northeastern state that is home to just 1.3 million people but which holds the first state primaries after the Iowa caucuses kick off the US presidential nomination process.

Officials predicted a record turnout.

New Hampshire sets the tone for the primaries to come – and could whittle down a crowded Republican field as arch-conservative Senator Ted Cruz, who won Iowa last week, continued to battle former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio for third place early on Wednesday.

Rubio is hoping to match his third-place Iowa finish despite taking a drubbing in Saturday's debate, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie eviscerated the first-term Florida senator for robotically repeating the same talking points.

For the past 60 years or so, most of the candidates who ended up winning the White House won their party's primary in the so-called Granite State. But tellingly, the last three presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – were all elected despite losing in New Hampshire.

Last-minute voters

Everything is at play in New Hampshire due to a high number of registered independents who can choose to vote in either party, and the famous last-minute nature of voters here.

Exit polls conducted by CNN showed that nearly half of Republican voters did not make their final decision about whom to support until the last few days.

Trump has energised broad swaths of blue-collar Americans, angry about economic difficulties and frustrated at what they see as their country losing its global stature.

And the race could be upended yet again if former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg were to launch an independent bid. He has told the Financial Times he was "looking at all options".

Clinton won Iowa by a hair, and remains the overall favourite to win the Democratic nomination. But Sanders's strong performance shows that his campaign, even though it faces an uphill battle, can give the former secretary of state a run for her money deep into election season.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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