Democrat Bernie Sanders beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by double digits in the New Hampshire primary, and Donald Trump was the big Republican winner, an outcome that was expected but left other Republican candidates vying for second place.
Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell said some of those Republican contenders may do well in Rhode Island, especially candidates who have been on the national stage for years, like Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
"Jeb Bush is playing here kind of like Hillary Clinton plays here," said Bell. "There’s a lot of people who have been here a long time who just believe in the Bush name."
Ohio Governor John Kasich shot out of the pack of Republicans with a second place finish on Tuesday. Bell said the Ohio Governor could also make a strong showing in the Ocean State, though he doubts Kasich will win the party's nomination.
"I think Kasich will be very popular here because he’s more moderate," said Bell. "He’s pretty much the top centrist candidate."
Rhode Islanders may find a considerably winnowed pool of Republican candidates by the time the state's April primary comes around. Bell said he has yet to see his fellow Republicans coalesce around a single candidate, but he questions whether Ocean State voters will respond as warmly to some of Trump’s more conservative positions on issues like immigration and Islam.
"I think at the end of the day, they need to hear him talk about job growth. They need to hear him talk about repealing Obamacare. You know, things that have hurt Rhode Islanders from the national level." said Bell.
As expected in the Democratic race, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders beat out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but his lead was much larger than the Clinton campaign had hoped.
At a Rhode Island watch party with both Sanders and Clinton supporters, state Democratic Party spokeswoman Ann Gooding said she still expects Clinton to do well in the Ocean State.
"The people who are committed to Hillary in Rhode Island have been longtime supporters," said Gooding. "I think that's not wavering."
Clinton defeated then-newcomer Barack Obama in the 2008 primary. Gooding said her supporters in Rhode Island had not given up hope on Tuesday night, despite her loss in New Hampshire.
"You know they have a different read on it. They're just optimistic that the elections will bear out going forward, and so they're not concerned about the results for tonight," said Gooding.
Two Republicans that political activists thought might do well in Rhode Island, Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, were both dealt blows in New Hampshire. Christie, who came in sixth place overall, announced he would reevaluate his campaign.
Barbara Ann Fenton, who has been spearheading ground-game efforts for Christie in Rhode Island, said she feels many New Hampshire voters were wooed away by Donald Trump.
"Most of the time in the game of politics, logic doesn’t trump passion, and I think this year we’re seeing passion on both sides," said Fenton. "And that’s what Trump has been able to tap into. So if it’s not Chris’ year, it’s not Chris’ year.".
Christie has since announced he is dropping out of the race, along with tech CEO Carly Fiorina.