5 takeaways from the New Hampshire primary

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) edged former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night, but a lot remains unsettled in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) burst onto the scene with a strong third-place showing. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Vice President Joe Biden are suddenly facing serious questions about their paths forward after distant fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively.

Here are five takeaways from the first-in-the-nation primary.

Sanders is the front-runner

The Vermont progressive didn’t win by a huge margin, but a win is a win.

He’s now turned out the most voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and he’ll be the favorite heading into Nevada, which could be challenging terrain for both Buttigieg and Klobuchar.

Sanders narrowly lost the delegates edge to Buttigieg in Iowa and didn’t post a resounding win in New Hampshire, but with Warren fading and the packed lane of centrists splitting votes, he’s in the best position of anyone going forward.

There will be rocky times ahead — the moderate Democrats and anti-Sanders crowd aren’t going down without a fight.

But Sanders is in line for a fundraising and polling boost coming out of New Hampshire after stacking top finishes, which could have a multiplier effect.

In each state so far, Sanders’s base of young supporters have been showing up at massive events, often dwarfing those of his rivals. He’s the hot ticket in town, with indie rock bands and electrifying surrogates adding to the energy around his campaign.

Debates matter

Less than a week ago, Klobuchar wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Now she’s a big story coming out of New Hampshire and the latest evidence that anything can happen in this highly unpredictable Democratic primary race.

That’s due largely to a strong debate performance in Manchester on Friday night, where she tapped into something that had escaped her until now.

Klobuchar mixed sharp arguments about how she’s shaped policy in the Senate with folksy Midwest humor. She’s shown a propensity to fight, at times clashing with Buttigieg in the center and Sanders on the left.

National Democrats rewarded her with a flood of donations after the debate and Granite State voters sent her to a surprise third place finish, pushing her into the thick of this contested primary.

The centrists are cannibalizing one another

The New Hampshire results show a strong appetite among Democratic voters for a moderate candidate. The only problem is that they can’t decide on which one.

Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden combined for more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday night, compared with about 36 percent for Sanders and Warren, the two candidates associated with the party’s left wing.

The problem for moderate Democrats who are desperate to stop Sanders is that there’s no indication that any of the centrists will be able to break free from the pack until their rivals start dropping out.

Buttigieg is a fundraising machine and he’s not going anywhere after top finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Klobuchar campaign will be rolling on a high after her surprise showing in the Granite State. And Biden is at least committed to staying in through South Carolina, and probably through Super Tuesday, when one-third of all delegates will be awarded.

That same day, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will begin his quest for delegates in a bid to be the party’s centrist standard-bearer.

If all the moderate candidates continue to split the field, Sanders could continue to rack up victories on the way to the nomination.

Biden and Warren had terrible nights

Biden and Warren have seen their support crumble in recent weeks and finished below 10 percent in New Hampshire. Neither candidate will take home any delegates and the fear for both campaigns now is that their fundraising will dry up.

For Biden, a fourth place finish in Iowa and a fifth place finish in New Hampshire severely damages his case that he’s the most electable candidate.

The Biden campaign is betting it all on sustaining support from voters of color in Nevada and South Carolina. The former vice president didn’t even stick around to see the results in New Hampshire, instead traveling to the Palmetto State to make what could be his last stand.

But with Buttigieg and Klobuchar rising, and Bloomberg waiting for him on Super Tuesday, it is getting harder and harder to see a path for Biden to win a majority of delegates.

Warren’s fourth place showing in New Hampshire, which borders her home state of Massachusetts, should set off alarms for her campaign after she led in Granite State polls as recently as November.

Sanders has easily topped Warren in both Iowa and New Hampshire and has strengthened his grip on the left. The Warren campaign is banking on strong showings across Super Tuesday, but she will need to recover momentum quickly to stay competitive.

Democrats brace for drawn-out primary

It was only whispered about before but it’s on everyone’s minds now — the race could be headed for a contested convention in which no one arrives in Milwaukee with the 1,990 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

It’s still possible that someone breaks away from the pack and takes it all.

But no one has even reached the 30 percent mark in the first two states to vote.

The centrist vote is split. Sanders looks strong on the left but hasn’t been able to run away with it. Nobody has a clue how Bloomberg’s billions will impact the race when the calendar turns to March 3.

It could be a long and bumpy ride.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Michael Bloomberg New Hampshire primary Pete Buttigieg

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