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New Hampshire: The Triumph of Populism

The results of the New Hampshire primary are in, and the big winner is the new populism: that mysterious pro-“outsider” phenomenon that has the political class in a panic, and which no one has adequately defined – including its current practitioners.

Donald Trump’s vote total of nearly 35 percent is impressive enough, but his two-to-one margin over the closest runner-up, John Kasich, underscores the triumph of his brand of Jacksonian populism over both the Romney-esque center right (Kasich-Bush) and “movement conservatism” (Cruz-Rubio). In spite of a concerted effort by the conservative punditariat and the mainstream media to marginalize Trump as toxic, he handily crushed them, and is now in a position to barrel into South Carolina and beyond, steamrollering the “Establishment lane” candidates who are as divided as ever.

Even more stunning is Bernie Sanders’ victory over Hillary Clinton: while the polls told us that the former was headed for a win, the numbers – as I write Hillary is barely holding on to 40 percent – augur trouble for Mrs. Clinton’s much anticipated coronation. While the Clintonian “firewall” in the south is supposed to be impregnable, one can easily imagine it turning into the electoral equivalent of the Maginot Line. It’s that kind of election year.

The other big story of this election is the implosion of Marco Rubio, the fair-haired boy of the neoconservatives. His third place finish in Iowa was touted so loudly by his fanboys in the conservative media that one would have thought he taken first prize. Yet his cringe-worthy performance in the debate – it looked like his neoconservative handlers programmed him with the wrong software – and now his relegation to a humiliating fifth place in New Hampshire has almost certainly sunk his campaign. He will probably continue into Super Tuesday and perhaps beyond, but that’s only because he doesn’t seem to have an “off” button, or maybe it’s just stuck: in any case, it’s far too late to send him back to the factory for repair.

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