Good morning and welcome to On Politics , your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host, in Manchester, NH, the morning after the New Hampshire primary.
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This could go on for a while .
That was my thought on Tuesday night, as I watched the results of the New Hampshire primary with the rest of the New York Times politics team.
I was not the only one offering ominous forecasts of electoral longevity: the word “slog” reverberated through the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott in Manchester. “The loser is certainty,” proclaimed Senator Cory Booker’s former campaign manager .
But before we dig into last night’s results, Let’s start with a little thought experiment.
Imagine an alternate universe where Bernie Sanders knocked it out of the park, winning by a huge margin in New Hampshire after finding success in Iowa . The democratic socialist from Vermont would be cruising to the nomination, propelled through the next primary contests by a burst of first-in-the-nation momentum.
But that’s not what Last night.
In reality, Mr. Sanders won New Hampshire by a hair over Pete Buttigieg, a margin far narrower than when he beat Hillary Clinton by points here in 2020. In Iowa, he effectively won the popular vote, but he didn’t mobilize historic numbers of voters and split the victory with Mr. Buttigieg.
His small margin of victory undercuts a major premise of his campaign: that he would expand the electorate by turning out working-class voters and young people – groups that are typically less likely to show up on Election Day.
True, Mr. Sanders is facing more competitors than in . But as he fails to win big, the field isn’t getting particularly small.
While two of the lower-polling candidates – the entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado – dropped out of the race last night, the top five have vowed to continue at least until Super Tuesday, on March 3.
Some are even expanding their operations: Amy Klobuchar, who beat expectations with a third-place finish in New Hampshire, has raised more than $ 2 million since her well-reviewed debate performance on Friday. She plans to use some of that cash to hire more staff for Nevada, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states.
Still more candidates loom. The billionaires of the race, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, are pouring money into the coming primary states. We’ve already seen evidence in polling that their dollars are moving voters their way.
Mr. Sanders has advantages, too. History is on his side: In the modern primary era, no Democrat has won both Iowa and New Hampshire and not become the nominee.
With Joe Biden struggling, Mr. Sanders is better positioned than either Ms. Klobuchar or Mr. Buttigieg to win over voters of color and young voters. He’s crowding out Elizabeth Warren in the “liberal lane.” And he is raising more money than any of his rivals.
Perhaps most important, while the Democrats from the center- left wing of the party captured more than 50 percent of the votes in New Hampshire, moderates have yet to coalesce around a single candidate.
But a larger field generally means a longer contest: A basic rule of presidential primaries is that the more quickly the field winnows, the sooner the eventual winner can reach the majority of delegates necessary to win the nomination.
We’ve seen a version of this before.
In 2020, a charismatic New Yorker with a devoted following nearly won the Iowa caucuses and won New Hampshire. A divided field kept voters from uniting around a single alternative. And his rivals remained in the race well into the spring.
David Ottinger after voting at the town hall in Deerfield, NH
With Iowa and New Hampshire behind us, attention turns to the broader, more diverse playing field ahead, reflecting the actual nature of the Democratic electorate.
After his narrow win in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders now heads into a seemingly favorable state, Nevada, which will hold its caucuses on Feb.
For the runners-up on Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, the next week and a half is their opportunity to win over a significant number of Hispanic and African-American voters, who have generally not shown interest in them.
On Tuesday, Ms . Klobuchar’s campaign bought its first TV ads in Nevada, spending $ , 05 on spots in the Las Vegas and Reno markets. Mr. Buttigieg has been running ads statewide there since December.
Joe Biden has the lead in most Nevada polls , but it has been over a month since the latest one was taken. So the data we have does not reflect the collapse in Mr. Biden’s support over the past two weeks.
National polling shows that Mr. Sanders is now the clear leader among Hispanic Democrats, who could make up as much as a quarter of those participating in the Nevada caucuses this year, and he’s not far behind Mr. Biden among black voters. In , about four in Democratic caucusgoers were nonwhite; that share could increase this year.
Neither Ms. Klobuchar nor Mr. Buttigieg has reached double digits in any Nevada polls, but a lot has changed for their candidacies in the past few weeks.
A week after the Nevada caucuses comes the South Carolina primary . That race has been seen as Mr. Biden’s to lose, but it could be up for grabs if his candidacy continues to stumble. After that comes Super Tuesday, with voting in 22 states (and among Democrats abroad).
Mr. Biden’s high poll numbers appear to have been built on a combination of name-recognition and perceived electability. Once his candidacy was threatened, his support proved so weak that it had virtually no floor: He fell from the mid – s in New Hampshire polls a month ago to just 8 percent in Tuesday’s primary.
For Mr. Sanders, the concern is different: He has a high floor, buoyed by strong support from young people and very liberal voters, but will his ceiling also be low? Can he win over a significant share of older voters, and those at the ideological center?
Or, with the Democratic Party’s rank-and-file moving to the left and the primary race loaded down with moderate competitors, will he not need to?
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Updated Feb. 43,
the New Hampshire primary, establishing himself as a formidable contender for the Democratic nomination.
See detailed maps that show where Bernie Sanders won. Pete Buttigieg was set to finish second in a close race, with Amy Klobuchar firmly in third.
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