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Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Primary Night event at the SNHU Field House in Manchester, New Hampshire on February 11. Image Credit: AFP

Manchester, New Hampshire: Senator Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary Tuesday night, consolidating support on the left in his second strong showing in as many weeks.

Sanders fended off two moderate rivals, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. finished behind them. Only a small fraction of the total available delegates have been awarded in the Democratic primary so far. So what do Tuesday night’s results mean for the race going forward? Read on.

1. Bernie Sanders is the front-runner of a muddled race.

Sanders won the most votes in Iowa, even if he narrowly lost the delegate battle. He won the New Hampshire primary. His support among people of colour has grown in polls, while his chief competitor for those voters, Mr. Biden, has been fading in the overall contest. He has climbed to the lead in some national polls. And he is raising more money — and has more money — than any of his rivals who are not billionaires.

Meet the new front-runner of the 2020 Democratic primary.

After two contests, Sanders is in an indisputably enviable position. Still, there are caveats. His victory and near-victory both came with a historically low share of the overall vote. He was on pace to carry New Hampshire with less than 27 per cent of the vote, which would be the lowest total ever for a winner. His vote share in Iowa was similarly sized.

But winning is winning and the moderate ledger of the Democratic primary is as fractured as ever — to Sanders’s great advantage. Sanders has another thing going for him: Two bases, one demographic and one ideological. New Hampshire exit polls show him carrying about half of voters under 30 — a share no other candidate can claim for any demographic slice — and nearly half of very liberal voters.

Next up on the calendar is Nevada, a caucus state that can reward candidates with energised bases and larger political organisations, which suits Sanders particularly well.

2. Joe Biden is on the ropes.

This was not the beginning that the Biden campaign had envisioned. Biden had entered the 2020 contest last spring as the well-liked two-term vice president to one of the country’s most popular Democrats, Barack Obama. He benefited from head-to-head polls that showed him as the strongest general election contender for the Democrats — a party singularly obsessed with beating President Trump.

Yet in the first two contests, Biden finished fourth and fifth. In New Hampshire, he did not receive a single delegate.

If winning is contagious, losing can be an even more infectious campaign disease. It erodes support, money and confidence in a sudden rush of voter and donor panic. And Biden now faces more than two weeks — an interminably long stretch — until the primary on the calendar his advisers have long circled as his political “firewall”: South Carolina’s. It was telling that when he ditched New Hampshire before the polls closed, he headed there instead of Nevada, whose nominating contest is next.

3. A moderate mobilisation doesn’t spell success for Biden.

To the extent that the traditional structures of the Democratic establishment are set to mobilise against Mr. Sanders out of fear of his revolutionary brand of democratic socialism, it is no longer clear that Mr. Biden would be the beneficiary. Mr Buttigieg has finished above him twice, Ms Klobuchar’s moderate brand caught fire late in New Hampshire, and the self-funding billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg is pounding the airwaves in Super Tuesday states and offering a refuge for the restless establishmentarians. That said, the race’s fluidity is not to be underestimated. Klobuchar was more of an asterisk than anything a few short weeks ago. A single strong debate elevated her here, and Mr. Biden still has chances to make a fresh impression.

4. Buttigieg is racing to stay relevant.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg

A second-place finish by Buttigieg in New Hampshire and a delegate victory in Iowa will lend his campaign major momentum. The question now is what, exactly, will happen to that energy as the contest moves to a more diverse playing field.

Buttigieg’s campaign has spent months trying to win over people of colour, highlighting policy plans and a handful of endorsements from black lawmakers. Yet in polling, Mr. Buttigieg has shown no strength with the black and Latino voters who make up a significant portion of the Democratic Party electorate in Nevada and South Carolina, the next two nominating contests. After that, the race moves to Super Tuesday, a mix of big, diverse states like California and Texas, and Southern states where black people are expected to make up a majority of Democratic voters.

Buttigieg’s team hopes that wining begets more winning, citing the experience of Barack Obama in the 2008 primary race. The next few weeks will test whether a white man can replicate the electoral success of the first black president.

5. Elizabeth Warren is headed in the wrong direction.

OPN 191017 Elizabeth Warren-1571310192749
Elizabeth Warren

After her relatively strong third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, Ms Warren’s campaign came to New Hampshire and made minimal adjustments, hoping the same message of unity she closed with in Iowa would lift her as rivals began taking more overt shots at one another. It didn’t.

Her support fell. She won no delegates. And now she faces a potentially more tricky calendar, after two losses in the two states she had most banked on in February. If Biden is still hoping to turn his fortunes around in South Carolina, Ms. Warren’s campaign does not have a similar state for safe harbour.

The good news: Warren’s campaign has a head start in the Super Tuesday contests, having built a 1,000-person staff, including Iowa and New Hampshire aides with redeployment orders.

The bad news: Her bet in organising at the local level and embedding in communities in the first two states did not pay off.

6. Amy Klobuchar caught on at the right moment.

Senator Amy Klobuchar

Klomentum? Klobmentum?

Amy Klobuchar doesn’t particularly care how you spell it, as long as voters feel it. She rose in the polls in New Hampshire at the exact right time, parlaying the chaos out of Iowa and a strong performance in Friday night’s debate into a third-place finish.

While coming in fifth in last week’s Iowa caucuses didn’t place her in the top tier of the race, her team saw room to expand her support amid the independent-leaning, more fiscally conservative Democratic electorate in New Hampshire. Her campaign mounted a furious six-day sprint through the state, partially funded by an influx of $5 million in donations received after the debate. In the coming days, she plans to move staff members into Nevada, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states, as well as expand her team.


What do primary voters think about the race to White House?

Most voters taking part in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary on Tuesday expressed deep dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump and said they would vote for the party’s nominee “regardless of who it is,” according to an Edison Research exit poll. Here are some highlights from the exit poll based on interviews with 2,935 New Hampshire primary voters at 45 polling locations throughout the state:

30% of people who either belong to a union or have family members who do voted for Senator Bernie Sanders.

17% voted for former Vice-President Joe Biden.

32% of minority voters backed Sanders, while 16% supported Biden.

30% of white, college-educated women voted for Senator Amy Klobuchar, the highest share of support from the group.

28% was the support Buttigieg received from moderates, while Klobuchar received 26% support.

50% of the state’s Democratic primary voters said they decided which candidate to pick just within the last few days.

33% said a female nominee would have a tougher time beating Trump.

78% said that age was not an important factor for them when deciding which candidate to support.