Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders pulled off a first-place finish in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night, setting the Democratic presidential nominating contest up for a long competitive race to the party’s convention in Milwaukee this summer.
With 90 percent precincts reporting, most major news outlets have declared Sanders, 78, officially the winner of New Hampshire, followed closely by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former vice president Joe Biden came in far behind in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
A self-identifying socialist, Sanders has terrified the Democratic Party’s establishment elites over concerns that the progressive candidate will alienate moderate and independent voters in critical states this fall in a head-to-head match-up with President Donald Trump. Last fall, former President Barack Obama privately said he would break his silence in the primary and speak out to prevent Sanders from clinching the nomination. Many other elected Democrats have signaled their anxiety over a Sanders nomination and some have speculated over a “Stop Sanders” movement emerging, similar to the failed “NeverTrump” movement in 2016.
If precedent holds, Sanders’ big win in New Hampshire has now set the Vermont senator on a fast-track to securing the Democratic Party nomination this fall after losing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. Traditionally, winning New Hampshire is a critical milestone. No major-party presidential candidate has ever gone on to win the nomination without coming first or second in the Granite State in recent history.
The race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, however, has been no ordinary contest already, having developed a reputation for its turbulence. Eleven major candidates remain in the running, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is aiming to shake things up on Super Tuesday by skipping the early voting states with a massive self-funded operation. At this point, Bloomberg has spent more than $350 million on the campaign and employs more than 2,000 campaign staff working to score Bloomberg delegates in states following the South Carolina primary at the end of the month.
In 2016, Sanders won the New Hampshire primary by a whopping 22 percent, but lost to Clinton in the overall contest. This year also mirrors 2016 in that Sanders just narrowly lost the Iowa Democratic Caucuses by a razor-thin margin. Last week however, Sanders comfortably won the popular vote in Iowa over first-place delegate winner Buttigieg.
The mainstream media, which has shown an obvious bias against Sanders thus far, lauded Buttigieg as the victor for winning a mere two more state delegate equivalents out of 2,152 counted. The Iowa caucuses this year were governed by a different set of rules to allocate delegates and the official results are still pending after recanvassing is completed.
Sanders’ win in New Hampshire still remains no small feat as Biden struggles to reassure supporters of his front-runner status after two major losses in the first two states. For a candidate who has hinged his bets on an argument of electability, Biden isn’t winning many actual votes so far. Sanders also eclipsed Biden as the frontrunner in national surveys this week, according to Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate of polls.
Buttigieg and Klobuchar also claimed big wins Tuesday night, defying expectations by placing second and third, respectively. Klobuchar’s late surge, stemming from a strong showing in Iowa and a well-received debate performance in Manchester on Friday night, helped boost the midwestern senator, who will continue on to Nevada and South Carolina later this month.
On the other end, the primary could not have yielded worse results for Biden and Warren, neither of whom won enough votes to leave New Hampshire with a single additional delegate. Warren, who represents neighboring Massachusetts, placed a distant fourth from the top three candidates, while Biden, who fled to South Carolina as voters went to the polls, came in an even more distant fifth.
The results also prompted tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang to suspend his campaign as the vote counting began.
The next Democratic nominating contest will take place in Nevada, which holds its caucuses on February 22. South Carolina will follow with a primary a week later leading up to Super Tuesday on March 3, when 16 states and territories will cast votes.