New Hampshire voters found former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to be honest or trustworthy, exit polls said in alarming findings as her campaign regroups from a stunning double-digit loss to Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders.
Fewer than half of New Hampshire Democrats polled found Mrs. Clinton to be honest and trustworthy, compared to a majority for Mr. Sanders, according to Associated Press exit polling. Among the percentage who said honest and trustworthiness was the quality most important to them, Mrs. Clinton captured only 5 percent of the vote compared to Mr. Sanders’ 91 percent.
For Democratic voters, the issue of trustworthiness is most likely not tied to the home-brewed email server she set up as secretary of state, but to her unwillingness to release the transcripts of her paid Wall Street speeches — something she’s been called to do by various news organizations and was asked about during town halls.
Mr. Sanders, while pushing his economic inequality message, has hit Mrs. Clinton hard for accepting cash from Wall Street and large industry groups while saying it won’t influence her policies.
Mrs. Clinton also lost the youth and women vote by double-digits to Mr. Sanders. According to CNN exit polling, Mrs. Clinton lost the women vote to Mr. Sanders by 11 points, with 7 in 10 women under the age of 45 voting for Mr. Sanders. Mr. Sanders had a 67-percent margin among voters ages 18 to 29.
“What we’re seeing is a generational change in the Democratic party,” said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Survey Center, one of the state’s best pollsters. “To young people, socialism doesn’t mean the Cold War or gulags. It means their summer vacation to Europe.
“To young women, whose mothers may be doctors or lawyers, or who may have a boss that is a woman, the world looks and feels different than the one Hillary Clinton is describing. The message Clinton is pitching doesn’t resonate. It’s not their world. Sanders is giving a speech that’s more in line with their experiences and with the values of these younger voters,” Mr. Smith said.
Indeed, the Clinton campaign seems to be retooling after New Hampshire, focusing on improving its message to younger voters and taking a tougher stance against Mr. Sanders. Former President Bill Clinton who was on the campaign trail in New Hampshire started using a more aggressive tone against Mr. Sanders over the weekend, calling him “hermetically sealed” and his supporters “sexist.”
“Hillary Clinton is in real trouble unless she develops a positive, proactive message that does more than tries to imitate and match Bernie Sanders’ populist democratic socialist agenda,” Democratic strategist Doug Schoen, told Politico in reaction to her New Hampshire loss. “The time for bullet points, agenda items and recitation of progressive programs is over. She must offer a vision for where she wants to lead America and what her presidency will be about. Otherwise, she will remain vulnerable and will face a long and difficult fight for the nomination.”
Indeed, Mrs. Clinton on Tuesday night lost every voting demographic to Mr. Sanders, except voters older than 65, non-whites and those with family incomes more than $200,000.
“Unless she’s in states with lots and lots of old voters, and more conservative and religious voters, she’s going to suffer similar sort of setbacks,” Mr. Smith said of her prospects moving forward based on New Hampshire’s results. “The images of Sanders and Clinton in the minds of voters will be different now based on what happened here.”
Still, Democratic strategists have faith Mrs. Clinton can retool her campaign and messaging after her loss in New Hampshire to become the Democratic nominee.
“I expect the Clinton campaign to make a very aggressive case, over the next several weeks, that her experience and tenacity will be used as president to fight on behalf of the values and policies that motivate the progressive base of the Democratic party — namely, ending economic inequality, protecting voting rights and stopping Donald Trump or whoever ends up as the Republican nominee,” said Craig Varoga, campaign strategist and longtime Democratic Party political operative.
“The best strategy for winning is not to fight for herself or her candidacy, it’s to fight for the American people, and to show passionately that her grit will help Americans who are frustrated with their economic situation and scared about the future,” he said. “If she does that, and I fully expect her to do so, she will be the Democratic nominee.”