Political outsiders claimed big wins Tuesday night in the New Hampshire primary as Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders claimed the top spots in the crucial early voting state.
While New Hampshire is known for its political surprises, Trump and Sanders led in the polls in the state for months. Still, both needed to deliver on expectations after second-place finishes in last week's lead-off Iowa caucus, where Sen. Ted Cruz topped the Republican field and Hillary Clinton narrowly edged Sanders on the Democratic side.
For some GOP leaders, Trump and Cruz's back-to-back victories add urgency to the impulse to coalesce around a more mainstream candidate who can challenge the two firebrands throughout the primaries.
However, it was unclear whether New Hampshire's primary would provide any clarity, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush all locked in a tight race for second place, along with Cruz.
Sanders pulled from a broad coalition of New Hampshire voters, gathering a majority of votes from men, women, independents and voters under the age of 45, according to exit polls. Clinton won the majority of those over 65 and those with incomes over $200,000 a year, according to early exit polls conducted by Edison Research for the Associated Press and the television networks
Clinton's campaign argues she will perform better as the race heads to more racially diverse, including Nevada and South Carolina. Both New Hampshire and Iowa are overwhelmingly white states that are far less diverse than the nation as a whole.
"A Democrat who is unable to inspire strong levels of support in minority communities will have no credible path to winning the presidency in the general election," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a memo released as the polls closed.
Both Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, and Trump, a real estate mogul who has never held political office, have tapped into the public's frustration with the current political system. Even if neither candidate ultimately becomes his party's nominee, whoever does will have to reckon with those factions of voters.
Nearly half of voters in the Republican primary made up their mind in the past week, a. Republican voters were more negative about their politicians than Democrats, with about half of GOP voters saying they felt betrayed by party officials.
In a sign of Trump's impact on the race, two-thirds of GOP voters said they support a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., a position the billionaire outlined last year amid rising fears of terrorism emanating from the Middle East.
After finishing behind Cruz in Iowa last week, Trump accepted some of the more traditional trappings of presidential campaigns, including smaller town halls with voters. Still, he closed the final full day of campaigning with a vulgar insult of Cruz.
The Texas senator brushed off Trump's comments, saying the reason the businessman engages in insults "is because he can't discuss the substance."
The large Republican field was winnowed after Iowa, but there remains a crowded grouping of more traditional candidates, including Rubio and the governors.
Rubio appeared to be breaking away after a stronger-than-expected showing in Iowa, but he stumbled in Saturday's debate under intense pressure from Christie. The New Jersey governor has relentlessly cast the young senator as too inexperienced and too reliant on memorized talking points to become president.
Rubio played into Christie's hands by responding with the same well-rehearsed line each time he was challenged by the governor. Rival campaigns hope the moment was enough to give voters pause.
Kasich, who has prided himself on avoiding attacks on his rivals, said he hoped New Hampshire voters were "fed up with the negative."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.