On Tuesday night, the people of New Hampshire got to take part in one of the most familiar, hotly anticipated rituals in the American presidential process — the first primary election of the 2016 campaign season. Sure, everyone got a little first taste of the political process last week in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, but that's not a traditional election like what went down in the Granite State. So, what did the candidates say to their supporters after the big night? Well, Bernie Sanders' New Hampshire victory speech was powerful; the self-proclaimed "democratic socialist" humbly congratulated Hillary Clinton on her efforts and spoke poignantly about the change his campaign is seeking.
"Together, we have sent the message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington," Sanders said. "That the government of this great nation belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their super PACs."
And at the end of the night, the outcome was exactly what the polls suggested — almost immediately after polls closed in New Hampshire at 8:00 p.m. ET, multiple outlets called the night for Bernie Sanders. Needless to say, this is huge news going forward — likely Democratic voters in South Carolina have just two weeks to make up their minds, with their primary scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23.
And just like you'd expect, Sanders clearly wanted to dial up an impassioned, rousing speech to propel him forward into the Palmetto State — even with his big victory, he still faces a nearly 30-point deficit there, a nearly impossible climb just two weeks out. Here's the message he decided to leave his supporters with on Tuesday night, in what was undeniably the biggest moment of his political life.
"Shortly after the polls closed, Secretary Clinton called and was very gracious in her congratulations," Sanders said.
"Let me take this opportunity to thank the many, many thousands of volunteers here in the Granite State who worked so tirelessly," he added. "Our volunteers work night and day, made phone calls and knocked on a heck of a lot of doors. And we won because of your energy. Thank you, all, so much. Thank you all. So much."
"And tonight, with what appears to be a record-breaking voter turnout ... a huge voter turnout — and I say huge," he added, "we won."
"Democrats and progressives win when voter turnout is high. Republicans win when people are demoralized," he noted. "American people will not continue to accept a corrupt campaign finance system that is undermining American democracy."
"I hope we all remember ... that we will need to come together in a few months and unite this party and this nation, because the right-wing Republicans we opposed must not be allowed to gain the presidency," Sanders said. "As we all remember, the last time Republicans occupied the White House, the trickle-down economic policies drove us into the worst economic downtown since the depression of the 1930s."
You've got to hand it to the ascendant Vermont senator at a moment like this, especially after his razor-thin defeat in Iowa — when he launched his campaign back in May 2015, he was still a relative unknown, even in his neighboring state of New Hampshire. When you consider just how much ground he had to gain before ultimately overtaking Clinton in the polls, it's pretty remarkable; Sanders was trailing Clinton by nearly 38 points in New Hampshire when he jumped in the race, and now, he’s standing in the winner’s circle.