As expected, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won the 2020 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 11, with two rivals seeking to navigate the moderate lane finishing right behind him. The strong numbers for Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) will drive their campaigns forward, begging the big question: Will the poor showings by Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) winnow the top five contenders in the field?
Beginning to Take Shape?
The results were released without a hitch – although the official tabulation dragged out longer than expected – after the chaos that marked the Iowa caucuses one week earlier. Sanders edged Buttigieg, while Klobuchar claimed a very solid third place. Warren and Biden crashed and burned, limping home in fourth and fifth place, well behind the top three, and failing to meet the threshold required to nab any delegates.
The Granite State returns hint at a possible narrowing of the race between self-proclaimed democratic socialist Sanders and two aspirants more amenable to a Democratic establishment extremely skittish over the future prospects of Biden, the automatic frontrunner when he entered the race last year. Biden had attempted to downplay the New Hampshire balloting even before polls were closed and is pinning his hopes on a stout showing in South Carolina on Feb. 29. He is counting on major support from the black voters that make up a crucial Democratic constituency in the Palmetto State.
Warren on the Brink
Warren’s crushingly poor performance in New Hampshire may prove even more damaging, given that she represents neighboring Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate and is competing with Sanders for the progressive mantle in the race. It was thought that Vermonter Sanders lapping Bay Stater Warren in New England could provide some much-needed clarity in a Dem primary race that has yet to show defining features. But Minnesotan Klobuchar doubling up Warren in voting on her own turf calls her viability as a candidate into question.
Strategists handicapping New Hampshire foresaw Warren having no genuine path forward under such a scenario. “She must come in first or second. If she comes in third, her campaign is over,” Republican strategist Ryan Williams told The Boston Herald before voting started. “If you can’t come in first or second being the neighboring state senator from Massachusetts in New Hampshire, your argument is shot.”
Democratic analyst Dan Payne echoed those sentiments. “After a poor showing in Iowa, she needs to finish first or second in her neighboring state. If not, there’s no reason to think she’ll do well in South Carolina or Nevada,” he told The Herald.
In a brief speech to supporters after polls closed, Warren acknowledged her rivals’ stronger showings but vowed to press on. “We might be headed for another one of those long primary fights that last for months,” the senator said. “We’re two states in with 55 states and territories to go, and we still have 98% of our delegates for our nomination up for grabs, and Americans in every part of our country are going to make their voices heard.”
Two more candidates did throw in the towel. As New Hampshirites voted, businessman Andrew Yang announced he was suspending his campaign. The briefly promising economic-focused outsider barely registered for a second consecutive time in voting. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), who made no perceptible impact on the race, also announced that he was dropping out.
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