Under Pressure: Sanders and Clinton neck and neck

The American state primary elections, which determine the candidates for the General Election, are shaping up to be messy and chaotic on both sides. reports on the Iowa and New Hampshire results

Senator Bernie Sanders, who has seen a huge rush of support in demographics including the young and white Democratic primary voters. Image: Gage Skidmore

Senator Bernie Sanders, who has seen a huge rush of support in demographics including the young and white Democratic primary voters. Image: Gage Skidmore

With the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries behind us, we can now say that the Presidential race is properly underway. The race thus far has proved itself to be an insurrection against the establishment. Far from being Clinton’s coronation, the race has proved to be one of the most interesting in recent memory. The Republican side has fielded the likes of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio as the three main candidates jockeying for the nomination. On the left, the race is being fought between Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a 74-year-old self-described socialist, and Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, Senator and Presidential candidate in 2008.

Leading the polls since July, the Republican favourite—much to many Republican’s’ chagrin– Donald Trump, multi-billionaire and reality TV star has regained initial lost ground in New Hampshire, handily winning the primary with 35.3% of the vote after an initial scare in Iowa where he came second to Texas Senator Ted Cruz who won 27.6% of the vote. This is a relief for the Trump camp. A self-styled “winner”, second place in Iowa seemed hardly befitting. However, his divisive politics—building a wall of the Mexican border to stem illegal immigration for example–, straight talking, and disregard for political correctness has regardless fielded an impressive amount of support from mainly working class, white American families. In New Hampshire, they tended to be against the political elite, weary of globalisation, and who held fears regarding immigration.

This plays to Trump’s advantage; many see him as incorruptible because he’s simply too rich to be bought off and his populism has stoked the fire of political insurrection against the establishment. New Hampshire was an unqualified success. Trailing behind, Ted Cruz, winner of the Iowa caucuses, Marco Rubio, the whom many expected the Republican establishment to fall behind, and third place in New Hampshire, John Kasich. However, Rubio has seen a significant setback in New Hampshire, failing to counterattack against Governor Christie and creating an image of a robot after repeating lines from his speech. This is reflected in his fifth place in the New Hampshire primary.

In the Democrat corner, the contest being fought between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has proven to be full of surprises. In a race that was expected to be won handily by Clinton, Sanders has mustered an incredible turnout, the caucus in Iowa yielding 49.6% of the votes to Sanders, compared to 49.9% voting for Clinton. In a statement, Sanders told the press that the Iowa caucus was “basically a draw”. Some counties resorted to flipping a coin to decide the winner, a rarely used method to decide between ties, showing just how close the Democrat race was. Iowa brings back bad memories for Clinton; it’s where Barack Obama beat her in 2008 and proceeded to run away with the race.

Hillary Clinton, former Senator and Secretary of State. A race that once looked to be her coronation is now set to be rather more gruelling. Image: Wikimedia/ Hillary for Iowa

Hillary Clinton, former Senator and Secretary of State. A race that once looked to be her coronation is now set to be rather more gruelling. Image: Wikimedia/ Hillary for Iowa

However, the New Hampshire primary was a victory for Sanders, winning a majority of 60.4% compared to Clinton’s 38%. Hillary Clinton’s lack performance thus far reflects the fact that she has come to be seen as part of the elite political establishment. The loss for Clinton, who has a long history in New Hampshire, stung, the New York Times saying that it “amounted to a painful rejection” of her moderate politics in a politically moderate state. Sanders, with his liberal agenda of raising taxes and regulating Wall Street, drawing from wide ranging grass-roots supporters, is running on a platform that rejects the status quo, with policies tackling wealth inequality and political corruption.

In a race dominated by outsiders, this should come as less of a surprise than it does. Clinton, who has ties to Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry, failed to counter arguments saying that she was a symbol of corporate and elite politics which Sanders has styled himself to be the antithesis to. Furthermore, Clinton is seen as untrustworthy by voters due to her long political career that has been marred by a host of scandals, most recently, her discussion of classified security matters in an unsecure email conversation. This resonates in the Sanders camp. Although he drew his victory from a wide socio-economic spectrum, the young disproportionately support him, Clinton even being edged out among women because of this. The only Democrat voters who voted in a majority for Clinton were the over 65’s.

Regardless of the primaries, the race is only just getting started in earnest. With both sides being rocked by outsiders, the race to the nomination is sure to be fought tooth and nail between radicals from outside the traditional political system and the establishment candidates. What remains to be seen is if Sanders and Trump can maintain the momentum they’ve built up.

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