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The Riggs Report: New Hampshire’s muddle outcome

Granite State vote adds to election drama and uncertainty

There were clear winners in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump ran away with the vote in their respective parties. But if you were looking for New Hampshire’s results to give us a better direction on where this presidential sweepstakes is headed, you are bound to be disappointed.

It was significant that John Kasich scored a strong second place showing in the Republican vote. He’s been running as an establishment candidate, refusing to engage in Trump-style name-calling while saying he can unify the party. His showing Tuesday is voter validation of that tone and message, giving him fresh credibility.

“The light overcame the darkness of negative campaigning,” Kasich said in a statement released after the vote.

But now comes the hard part.

Having out-polled other establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, Kasich has the tall task ahead of proving that his strong finish in New Hampshire was more than a fluke. Complicating that effort is the very different nature of voters in South Carolina and other southern states in the upcoming series of primary elections.

These more conservative voters will not like Kasich’s record on health care reform. And polls have shown that Donald Trump has found a lot of interest and support in these states, based on his attacks on politics-as-usual.

As for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton is expected to fare much better in the South and in Nevada, where there is a more diverse electorate and a stronger presence of labor support.

Nevada’s Democratic caucuses are Feb. 20.

In other words, Bernie Sanders will find tougher going as the contest moves to primary states that are more reflective of the nation’s voter makeup than that found in New Hampshire. Sanders will have to demonstrate that he can attract support from large numbers of Latino and African-American voters, which historically have been strong supporters of Clinton.

Failure to do that will allow Clinton to regain the offensive. Still, Clinton’s loss Tuesday—in a state she won in 2008—is a bitter pill, depriving her of necessary momentum after her razor-thin win in Iowa.

That loss indicates that this nomination fight is going to be longer and more complicated than originally thought. We’re not likely to know the outcome until Super Tuesday in March, when a group of Southern states cast their ballots.