Clinton, Republicans regroup after New Hampshire drubbing

Hillary Clinton is accompanied by husband Bill Clinton at her rally in New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton is accompanied by husband Bill Clinton at her rally in New Hampshire.PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER, United States (AFP) - Hillary Clinton and a gaggle of mainstream Republican presidential hopefuls turned their gaze south on Wednesday, hoping to move on from thumping New Hampshire primary defeats at the hands of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Sanders and Trump - two political outsiders with vastly different ideologies, but who have a common campaign credo of shouting truth at power - won the second contest in this months-long nomination race with some ease.

Sanders almost doubled Clinton's tally and Trump bested second place Ohio governor John Kasich by almost 20 percentage points.

Both results shocked the party establishments, virtually guaranteeing bitter and drawn-out races to the Democratic and Republican nominations.

In a uneasy concession speech, Clinton immediately pivoted away from her months-long stump address, deploying messages designed to appeal to black voters who can decide the next primaries in South Carolina and Nevada.

"I know I have some work to do, particularly with young people," acknowledged Clinton, who received just 16 per cent of the vote among people under 29 according to New Hampshire exit polls.

The only age group where she came out ahead was the over 65s.

Clinton said she recognised the American electorate's fury with establishment politics.

"People have every right to be angry," she said. "But they're also hungry, they're hungry for solutions."

But her message risks falling on deaf ears unless she manages to address a core weakness revealed by Tuesday's exit polls: her lack of voter trust.

Among voters who cared most about trustworthiness, only 5 per cent chose the former secretary of state who has failed to shake off the controversy over her use of a private e-mail server while in the sensitive office.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who advocates nothing less than "political revolution", has not fared well among minority groups and will have his work cut out to extend his winning streak.

To bolster his credentials with black voters, Sanders was reportedly expected to meet rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton in New York on Wednesday.

Sanders signalled he was in the race to win and said he expected the next few weeks to be even more closely fought.

"They're throwing everything at me except the kitchen sink, and I have the feeling that kitchen sink is coming pretty soon," he said in a buoyant victory speech.

If the Democratic race is poised to take a more confrontational turn, then Republicans are set for all out internecine warfare.

Trump's visceral assault on American politics brought him his debut victory after a second-place showing in last week's Iowa caucuses.

It was a must win for Trump, after his embarrassing performance in Iowa called into question his showmanship strategy and his brand as a winner.

But similar levels of support for Kasich, Senator Marco Rubio, former governor Jeb Bush and Texas Senator Ted Cruz left the rest of the field in chaos.

Now the fight moves to South Carolina, a state with a lingering reputation for bare-knuckle campaign tactics.

Even before the candidates arrived, the state's airwaves were being flooded with negative attack ads, with each man hoping to do down rivals and emerge as the mainstream choice to successfully challenge Trump.

But they will have to first garner some momentum.

In New Hampshire, Bush found himself fighting for his political life and all but out of the race. He survived only by exceeding very low expectations.

Rubio, who hoped to match or better his third-place Iowa finish, stumbled to fifth after he took a drubbing in the last debate for the vote, where he robotically repeated his talking points.

He could only offer supporters a mea culpa.

"Many people are disappointed. I'm disappointed. Our disappointment is not on you. It's on me," he said. "We did not do well on Saturday and so listen to this: That will never happen again."

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, for whom a strong New Hampshire showing was critical, signalled the end of the line might be near after he finished sixth.

He said he was returning home to "take a deep breath" before making a decision about his political future.