The frontrunners in the race to reach White House met their Waterloo in New Hampshire. This brings an early warning against putting one’s bet on any of the candidate before America and its main parties really decide the nominees for the final contest for the top post, writes Shankar Kumar
Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton is no stranger for Indians. When there was little in common between New Delhi and Washington DC, she was a friend of India in the White House as her husband Bill Clinton held the reins of America. Her close and effusive rapport with Indians is what has made New Delhi to pin its hope on her chances with the presidential post for which she is contesting for the second time since her failed bid in 2008. But after the declaration of New Hampshire primary election result, Indians may have received a jolt because those preferred by Democrats and Republicans are aliens to Indians.
In fact, despite being quite familiar with Clinton’s past track record as a professional politician, Democratic Party supporters voted for 75-year-old Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist in New Hampshire election.
Nonetheless, the US presidential polls have always been a highly watched affair in the world. And with the results of Iowa caucus and Hampshire primary polls out, there is a little to doubt as to what direction this year’s presidential race will go.
While Republicans gave thumping support to Donald Trump, the impulsive billionaire who has never run for office before, Democrats voted for Bernie Sanders, the former senator who showed the world his line of thinking when he said he believed in justice and equality. “It is not fair when we have more income and wealth inequality today than almost any major country on earth and when the top one percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent,” Sanders said in his thanks giving speech in New Hampshire.
He got nearly 60 percent of votes, while his rival and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got only 38.5 percent voters’ support. In the Republican camp, by winning 34.5 percent vote Donald Trump showed that why he is going to be the most preferred candidate to win the race for the presidential nomination. Instead of Ted Cruz who gave Donald Trump a stunning setback in Iowa caucus, it was John Kasich who has emerged as Trump’s Republican rival in New Hampshire primary election. Kasich won 16.4 percent while Ted Cruz remained in the third place with just 11.5 percent vote.
But then complexity rules the roost of the American presidential election process. Before being nominated by a party for the presidential contest, a candidate has to pass the litmus test by winning support in primary elections or caucuses.
Surprisingly, they were never part of the American constitution. Rather they were created over the time by the political parties in the country. Of the total 50 states in the US, 34 hold primary elections and 16 conduct caucus.
Through primary elections even undeclared or unregistered party members vote to select a candidate affiliated with their party, while caucus, the oldest method of choosing delegates in the US and with its root lying in the British colonies, enables only registered members of a political party in a city, town or county gather to vote for their preferred party candidate. But caucuses sometimes become unpredictable as a voter registering himself or herself as a party member in the day can switch his or her loyalty at night, thereby, altering the character of the selection process. However, along with narrowing down the crowd, primaries and caucus also help candidates earn delegates who in turn vote for them at party conventions to be held in July.
Traditionally, Iowa, the 30th most populous state of the US and lying in the Midwestern part of the country, happens to be first state to holds caucus, New Hampshire which lies in the north-eastern part of America happens to be the first state to hold primary election. As per media reports, Iowa where caucus was conducted on February 1, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow win over her Democratic party rival Bernie Sanders. But it is in Republican camp, Iowa caucus result has changed the way the 2016 presidential election is set to play out. Republican front runner and billionaire reality tycoon Donald Trump suffered a drubbing vis-à-vis his closest rival Ted Cruz in Iowa.
Given this, all eyes were focused on New Hampshire where election was organised not by the political parties, but by the state. Both Republicans and Democrats made up equal number of electorate-30 percent each, while unaffiliated voters who are classified as independents made up 43 percent of the total electorate in the state where as many as 307 polling stations were set up this time around.
Dixville Notch-one of districts of the north-eastern state kept the tradition of midnight voting alive. Residents of Dixville Notch have been casting their ballots in primary election at midnight since 1960. This year two more New Hampshire districts -- Millsfield and Hart’s Location -- joined the midnight voting club, although only a few voters turned up at poll centres to cast their ballots.
Nonetheless, it was fight been two Democrat stalwarts in New Hampshire-Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders which turned the presidential nomination race quite interesting. While enjoying a hometown advantage in New Hampshire, which actually neighbours his home state of Vermont, Sanders did not allow his closest rival Hillary Clinton to spoil his party in this state-controlled election.
On the Republican side, businessman Donald Trump got a significant lead in New Hampshire despite his failure to snatch victory from Ted Cruz in the Iowa Caucus. With this elites of Washington DC who control American politics appear to have received a severe jolt. As for the first time, instead of politicians from privileged background, green horns like Donald Trump are making a mark in the American election. However, any meaningful journey towards official declaration of candidates for the presidential race will begin only after they get a seal of approval at party conventions to be held five months away from now.
Thus, the process is long and arduous. With this in view, say foreign affairs watchers, it would be simplistic to indulge in any kind of guessing games especially when things are at primary stages and there is every possibility of several ups and downs in the race to official declaration of candidates.