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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' supporters watch early results come in at Sanders' New Hampshire primary night event on February 11, 2020 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Image Credit: AFP

Bernie Sanders has won the New Hampshire Democratic primary, according to ABC, NBC and CBS networks.

The Vermont senator was the oldest candidate in the field, and won the New Hampshire primary after narrowly losing the chaotic first-in-the-nation Iowa vote to fresh-faced challenger Pete Buttigieg.

Some, however, worry Trump could successfully portray him as a dangerous communist in an election showdown.

Sanders held a narrow lead over Pete Buttigieg in the New Hampshire Democratic primary Tuesday night as the two men from different generations and wings of their party battled for front-runner status in the chaotic nomination fight to take on President Donald Trump.

After essentially tying in Iowa last week, the strong showings from Buttigieg and Sanders cemented their status at the top of the 2020 Democratic field.

State-by-state primaries

And an unexpectedly strong performance from Amy Klobuchar gave her a stronger path out of New Hampshire as the contest moves on to the gantlet of state-by-state primary contests that lie ahead.

The strength of Sanders and Buttigieg was matched in reverse by the struggle of former Vice President Joe Biden, who spent most of the last year as the Democrats’ national front-runner but fled New Hampshire hours before polls closed anticipating a bad finish.

With final returns ahead, he was competing for fourth place with Elizabeth Warren, a disappointing turn for the senator from neighboring Massachusetts.

Neither Biden nor Warren was on track to receive any delegates.

With votes still coming in, the race was too early to call. But the front-runners were cheerleading and being cheered by their supporters.

“So many of you chose to meet a new era of challenge with a new generation of leadership,” Buttigieg said.

Coast to coast

Sanders boasted of “a movement from coast to coast ... to defeat the most dangerous president.”

The New Hampshire vote made clear that the early days of the Democratic contest will be a battle largely between two men who are four decades apart in age and are ideological opposites.

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US Presidential Candidate and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to veterans and members of the public at a town hall event at the American Legion Post 98 in Merrimack, New Hampshire on February 6, 2020. / AFP / Joseph Prezioso Image Credit: AFP

Sanders is a leading progressive voice, calling for a substantial government intervention in health care and other sectors of the economy.

Buttigieg has pressed for more incremental changes, giving Americans the option of retaining their private health insurance and making a point of appealing to Republicans and independents who may be dissatisfied with Trump.

Next phase

Yet Sanders and Buttigieg enter the next phase of the campaign in different political positions.

While Warren made clear she will remain in the race, Sanders, well-financed and with an ardent army of supporters, is quickly becoming the leader of the progressive wing of the party.

Meanwhile, Buttigieg still has moderate rivals to contend with, including Klobuchar, whose standout debate performance led to a late surge in New Hampshire. Biden promises strength in upcoming South Carolina, while former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was not on Tuesday’s ballot but looms next month.

Biden, after dismal performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, is staking his candidacy on a strong win Jan. 29th in South Carolina, which is the first state with a substantial black population to weigh in on the Democratic race.

After a chaotic beginning to primary voting last week in Iowa, Democrats hoped New Hampshire would provide clarity in their urgent quest to pick someone to take on Trump in November.

At least two candidates dropped out in the wake of weak finishes Tuesday night: just-the-facts moderate Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and political newcomer Andrew Yang, who attracted a small but loyal following over the past year and was one of just three candidates of color left in the race.

Enormous influence

While struggling candidates sought to minimize the latest results, history suggests that the first-in-the-nation primary will have enormous influence shaping the 2020 race.

In the modern era, no Democrat has ever become the party’s general election nominee without finishing first or second in New Hampshire.

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Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Milford, New Hampshire, on February 04, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

The action was on the Democratic side, but Trump easily won New Hampshire’s Republican primary. He was facing token opposition from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

Warren, among the front-runners for months, offered an optimistic outlook as she faced cheering supporters, “Our campaign is built for the long haul, and we are just getting started.”

Despite an embarrassing defeat that raised questions about her path forward, Warren vowed to move trudge on.

“Our campaign is built for the long haul, and we are just getting started,” she declared.

Having already predicted he would “take a hit” in New Hampshire after a distant fourth-place finish in Iowa, Biden essentially ceded the state. He was traveling to South Carolina Tuesday as he bet his candidacy on a strong showing there later this month boosted by support from black voters.