MANCHESTER, N.H. (Christian Examiner) – Businessman Donald Trump won New Hampshire for his first victory of the Republican presidential race Tuesday, carrying not only moderates but also conservative voters and even edging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz among evangelicals, according to exit polls.
Evangelicals comprised only 25 percent of the New Hampshire GOP electorate, and Trump won 27 percent of their vote to Cruz's 23 percent. Three other candidates reached double-digits among evangelicals: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (13 percent), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (11) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (10).
Trump thanked voters and his opponents during a victory speech and predicted wins just like the one in New Hampshire "for many weeks."
"The world is going to respect us again – believe me," he said.
Evangelicals – a key voting bloc in GOP elections – are viewed as a key in Republican primaries and caucuses, although they held less influence in New Hampshire than they did in Iowa, where they comprised 64 percent of all Republicans one week ago when Cruz topped Trump in the Iowa caucuses. In that state, Cruz carried 34 percent of the evangelical vote, Trump 22, and Rubio 21.
Kasich revived his campaign with a second-place showing in New Hampshire, winning 16 percent among all voters to best Cruz, Bush and Rubio, who were virtually tied for third place, each with around 11 percent of the vote.
"We don't see it as just another campaign," Kasich said during his speech. "We see this as an opportunity for all of us, and I mean all of us, to be involved in something that is bigger than our own lives, to change America ... to restore the spirit of America."
It was a disappointing night for Rubio, who finished third in Iowa and had hoped for a first- or second-place showing in New Hampshire but faltered in the weekend debate during an exchange with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"I'm disappointed with tonight," Rubio told supporters. "[B]ut I want you to understand something. Our disappointment tonight is not on you. It's on me. I did not do well on Saturday night. Listen to this: That will never happen again."
Trump won a plurality among those who consider themselves "very conservative," "somewhat conservative" and moderate. All total, Trump won 36 percent of conservative voters to Cruz's 15 percent. Among moderates, it was Trump with 32 percent and Kasich 28.
The race now turns to South Carolina's Feb. 20 primary. During the 2012 GOP primary, evangelicals comprised 65 percent of Republican voters, according to exit polls.