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Sanders Wins New Hampshire Primary, Warren and Biden Slip

Following the muddled Iowa caucuses, many Democrats looked to New Hampshire to gain delegates and momentum in the press.

Winner: Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg technically tied in the delegate count for New Hampshire: they both won nine delegates. Sanders also won the popular vote, which gives strength to his longstanding message that he’s what the people really want. Buttigieg can’t exactly say the same for himself, though he finished only 1.3 points behind Sanders.

After Sanders’s strong finishes in both Iowa (where he also won the popular vote) and New Hampshire, it’s becoming more and more likely that he will be the nominee. However, it’s worth noting that New Hampshire is not the United States. On average, New Hampshire is older, whiter, more educated and more affluent than the country as a whole. Those demographics give an edge to moderates like Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The rise of Klobuchar

After her strong performance in the most recent Democratic debate, Klobuchar rose to third place in New Hampshire, gaining six delegates and winning 19.8% of the vote. Before the primary, Klobuchar was polling at only 10% in New Hampshire.

Klobuchar’s showing in the debate was an important factor of her New Hampshire turnout: 27% of primary voters who said that the February 7 debate was important to their vote went for Klobuchar. She was also popular among moderates and those on the center-left: 48% of Klobuchar’s support came from people who described themselves as “moderate”, and 39% came from those who described themselves as “somewhat liberal.”

A large part of Klobuchar’s voting base came from a very specific demographic: white college-educated women, who made up 45% of her support.

While her showing in New Hampshire is impressive given her historically low support in the polls, it’s unclear whether Klobuchar will be able to maintain her momentum through Nevada, South Carolina, and the Super Tuesday states.

The fading of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren

Former Vice President Joe Biden faced a resounding defeat in New Hampshire. He finished in fifth place, won just 8.4% of the vote and received no delegates. (In New Hampshire, candidates must reach 15% of the popular vote in order to gain delegates).

Biden sensed early on that he wouldn’t perform well in New Hampshire, but had claimed that it would be because he’s not from a neighboring state. However, both Buttigieg and Klobuchar aren’t from neighboring states, and they received far more of the vote than Biden did.

Biden didn’t stay in New Hampshire to address his supporters: he flew out to South Carolina before the New Hampshire polls closed. He has long enjoyed substantial support from African-American voters in South Carolina, but now it’s not clear that they will back him either. As Quentin James, the executive director of the Collective, a PAC that aids African-American candidates, explained, “Black voters are starting to leave him now … A big reason lots of black voters were with Biden is they thought he was the best person to beat Trump. And they thought one reason for that is that he had the support of white voters. Now they see he has done so poorly with white voters and he no longer looks like the electability candidate.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is also losing support. Both Democratic and Republican strategists had warned that considering Warren’s dismal performance in Iowa, if she didn’t bounce back in New Hampshire, there was little reason to believe that she’d be the nominee. Now their predictions may come true: like Biden, Warren finished in the single digits with no delegates gained.

Warren was popular at first because she was seen as a more palatable version of Sanders. Though their views on policy are similar, Warren doesn’t label herself as a socialist, is an intellectual leader of progressives in Congress, and has good relations with the liberal-leaning press. Now, she is increasingly seen as less electable not only due to her far-left stances, but also the fact that she’s a woman. Many Democrats decided after 2016 that a woman, no matter how experienced, could not beat Trump. Warren has also faced controversy for her Medicare For All plan, as she couldn’t adequately explain in the Democratic debates how she was going to pay for it, which interfered with her image as someone who has a plan for everything.

The next primaries

  • The Nevada caucuses are next on February 22.
  • The South Carolina primary is on February 29.
  • “Super Tuesday” is March 3.

Image credit to Wikimedia Commons.

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