MANCHESTER, N.H -- Clarity will have to wait.
Contests that were expected to bring order to a chaotic race have instead set up more chaos. There’s now a higher likelihood than ever that both the Republican and Democratic contests extend well into the spring.
For the Republicans, a jumble near the top delivered Donald Trump a win and a second-place surprise of a finish to John Kasich. Rather than winnow the field, New Hampshire effectively added a new name to the list of viable GOP candidates.
Trump will have new confidence, proving that his polling results can turn into real votes. Ted Cruz, just eight days removed from his Iowa win, already had his ticket punched, the choice again of voters who wanted a candidate who shared their values.
The establishment trophy, though, is still up for grabs. But it could sport too much rust for it to be worth much, if the stalemate goes on.
Now, though, comes Kasich to the mix –- a folksy, moderate voice for a party that’s been dominated by the loudest of voices over the past year.
Perhaps there’s a turn left in this campaign toward the kind of practicality Tuesday’s runner-ups are offering.
The unifying themes of the first-in-the-nation primaries, though, revolved around anger and angst. Sanders, to the left, and Trump, to the right, offered politically opposed arguments that echoed and amplified voters’ worries.
Neither party has quite known what to do with them. The first two contests have gotten them no closer to figuring any of that out.