New Hampshire primary: five key takeaways
Bernie Sanders held a narrow lead over the former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg in the results of the New Hampshire Democratic primary on Tuesday night, with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar surging into third place.
But the night was disappointing for two prominent White House hopefuls – The Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren and former vice-president Joe Biden, neither of whom was on track to receive any delegates.
Here are the key takeaways from the results:
Klomentum makes its mark, but can it be sustained?
The story of the night was the late surge by Klobuchar who had languished in polling for months before a strong debate performance on Friday propelled her into the New Hampshire conversation.
The importance of her third place in the Granite State – following a dismal fifth place showing in Iowa last week – should not be underestimated. Klobuchar, a moderate, finished way ahead of the better-known, and better-funded, Warren and Biden.
More importantly, Klobuchar appears to have momentum on her side. Her dismantling of Buttigieg in Friday night’s debate – she dismissed the 38-year-old former mayor as a “cool newcomer” who would rather watch cartoons than sit through Donald Trump’s impeachment trial – drew in $3m in donations over the weekend, and saw her soar in the polls.
There are doubts over whether Klobuchar – who largely focused on campaigning in Iowa – has the money or the campaign infrastructure to continue her surge. But with Biden in decline, his centrist voters are there for the taking. Until now Buttigieg has been the main beneficiary, but after this strong showing, people are likely to take a closer look at Klobuchar in the coming weeks.
Biden is in real trouble
Joe Biden entered the Democratic race as the frontrunner, but has now lost – heavily – in the first two states to vote, raising serious questions about whether the former vice-president can arrest his decline.
Biden had attempted a rebrand in New Hampshire, which appears to have failed dramatically. At events in recent days he has been using fiery rhetoric and adopting a more pugnacious style, but it has ultimately counted for nought.
Biden’s main selling point was supposed to be electability, but his vision for America has now been emphatically rejected by voters in two early voting states. He desperately needs a win in Nevada or South Carolina – the next two states to vote – or run the risk of this becoming his third failed bid for the presidency.
Turnout is sending a mixed message
After a lackluster turnout in Iowa, the New Hampshire primary yielded much better news for Democrats.
With 90% of the estimated vote reporting, the vote tally had already surpassed 2016’s 250,983, according to NBC News, and was approaching 2008’s record of 288,672 voters.
It comes on the back of a disappointing level of engagement in Iowa, where Democrats hoped to replicate the numbers and enthusiasm of 2008, when more than 239,000 voted, but instead saw just 176,000 turn up at the caucuses.
Donald Trump’s 2016 win was attributed, in part, to an enthusiasm gap, with some Barack Obama voters staying home instead of voting for the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
After Iowa, fears had mounted that Democratic voters might again be less enthused by their choices, but New Hampshire’s turnout is a source of encouragement.
In a result that might dent Sanders’ celebrations, exit polls also showed a lower number of young people – a source of strength for Sanders – cast their vote than in 2016. About 33% of voters were aged between 18 and 29, compared with 43% four years ago.
All to play for as the primary rolls on
Though Sanders emerges strongest from Iowa and New Hampshire, the signs are pointing to a long race. After Buttigieg’s quasi-win in Iowa and second-place finish on Tuesday, the former mayor isn’t going anywhere – but the same could be said of a number of others.
Biden has crumpled so far in the primary, but is likely to win in South Carolina at the end of the month and is well-placed in the delegate-rich states that vote on Super Tuesday on 3 March. The billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer don’t have the widespread organic support of Sanders, but they have collectively spent hundreds of millions of dollars so far, and have neither the desire nor need to drop out.
Klobuchar has said she plans to continue her own fight for the White House, buoyed by a surge in campaign donations.
Indeed, it is Warren who looks increasingly vulnerable as the primary moves on to Nevada a week on Saturday. Warren, who briefly led the field in October, finished in fourth place in New Hampshire, a severe blow. The Massachusetts senator reminded her supporters: “We’re just two states in” on Tuesday, but she would have been hoping to have performed better so far.
The field continues to winnow
It wasn’t a good night for the lower-tier candidates. New Hampshire put paid to the campaigns of Michael Bennet and Andrew Yang, who had fought on despite underwhelming Iowa performances.
Yang is likely to be the most missed. The businessman’s commitment to introduce a universal basic income drew him support among young voters in particular, but didn’t translate to votes.
Bennet joins the list of US senators who have failed to gain traction and been forced to watch as the less experienced Buttigieg has soared.
One person who didn’t drop out is Tulsi Gabbard, despite finishing with fewer votes than either Steyer or Yang. “No matter what happens here tonight, I want you to know that we have already been victorious,” she told supporters. According to the official results, Gabbard came seventh.