Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, unlikely presidential frontrunners a year ago, ride out of New Hampshire on a wave of momentum.
They don't have much in common as politicians and people other than the populist wave they have tapped into. Mr. Trump is the Frankenstein's monster returned to torment his creator, the Republican Party establishment. It riled up the party by portraying President Obama, a cautious moderate, as a crazed African radical out to sabotage the nation, but it accomplished nothing that would appease wildly angry constituents. So they turned to Mr. Trump, an insulting bully with no respect or use for the ineffectual party hierarchy.
With the predictable self-destruction of Sen. Marco Rubio, an empty vessel with no accomplishments, programs, core beliefs or ability to think on his feet, the GOP establishment now turns to Ohio Governor John Kasich, a distant runner-up to Mr. Trump, as its savior. The governor's positive campaign is particularly appealing this election year, but this is the Republican who expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled was optional. This benefited his constituents, but to the furious far-right obsessed with "Obamacare," the action puts Mr. Kasich in league with the president and rules him out as a presidential contender.
Sen. Sanders has tapped into the frustration of economically struggling middle class Americans and the fears of young people who see the deck as stacked against them. The Democratic Party establishment tut-tuts that his platform is unrealistic but his idealism is resonating.
Hillary Clinton needs to ignite the same kind of passion Sen. Sanders ignited by clearly articulating what he sees as his noble mission in running for president. The former secretary of state still appears to be pursuing the White House because her turn was usurped eight years ago. Her prominent supporters don't help by lecturing young women that they should support the election of the first woman president. No one is entitled to anything, including the presidency. Jeb Bush is also learning this truth.
New Hampshire's record in backing candidates who eventually make it to the White House is mixed, although it is better than Iowa's. This is a volatile election year, as Sen. Rubio found out the hard way. A candidacy can go off the rails in a matter of a few nationally televised minutes, and the Internet magnifies and sends along every mistake at light speed.
Mr. Trump and Sen. Sanders are venturing into uncharted waters amid legitimate questions as to whether or not either of them is electable in November against a traditional candidate. The South Carolina primary, upcoming debates, or a random misstatement before a bevy of cell phones could change the equation dramatically.