New Hampshire Democratic primary did what it was supposed to do

New Hampshire Democratic primary did what it was supposed to do
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The New Hampshire Democratic primary did what it was supposed to do: It clarified the race. It looks like the contest is coming down to Bernie SandersBernie SandersNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose The role (un)happiness plays in how people vote MORE versus an anti-Sanders.

Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) established his primacy on the left by bumping off Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Democrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: 'Disgusting' Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Mass.). A whopping 61 percent of New Hampshire primary voters called themselves “liberals” in the network exit poll. Liberals clearly preferred Sanders over Warren, 33 to 13 percent.

The outcome was not so decisive among self-described “moderate” Democrats — voters Sanders would call “the Democratic establishment.” Why are “establishment Democrats” hostile to Sanders? Because they are convinced that he would lose the election and bring a lot of Democratic officeholders down with him.


Moderates in New Hampshire split between former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBillionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November Buttigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice MORE (27 percent) and Minnesota Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (26 percent). Klobuchar clearly benefited from her strong performance in the debate a few days before the primary. She bumped off Joe BidenJoe BidenNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Biden campaign sells 'I paid more income taxes than Trump' stickers Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose MORE, who ended up in a humiliating fifth-place finish.

How bad was it for Biden? In the national polls and in the Iowa caucuses, Biden’s strongest support came from seniors (voters 65 and older). But he lost the senior vote badly in New Hampshire (12 percent for Biden, compared to 32 percent for Klobuchar, 24 percent for Buttigieg and 14 percent for Sanders).

Among New Hampshire voters who said the next president should “return to Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose Is Congress reasserting itself? Trump-Biden debate: High risk vs. low expectations MORE’s policies,” Biden got only 14 percent of the vote — behind both Buttigieg (28 percent) and Klobuchar (26 percent). Despite the fact that Biden was Obama’s vice president for eight years!

Almost half of New Hampshire voters said Biden’s positions on the issues were “about right.” But did they vote for him? No. They went for Klobuchar (29 percent) and Buttigieg (28 percent). Only 14 percent voted for Biden.

Biden is hoping to salvage his campaign with support from African-American Democrats in South Carolina at the end of the month. That might work if Obama were to endorse his former vice president. But it’s unlikely Obama will do that. “This is horrendous. We’re all scared,” a Biden adviser told Politico. “I think we’re going to make it to South Carolina. I know we’re supposed to say we’re going to win. But I just don’t know.”


Coming out of New Hampshire, the Democratic Party is doubly divided. There is a split between the liberal “Sanders wing” and the moderate “anti-Sanders wing.” Moreover, the moderate wing is divided over which candidate would be the strongest alternative to Sanders. Klobuchar? Buttigieg?

In the New Hampshire exit poll, 51 percent of the voters endorsed the view that Bernie Sanders’ positions on the issues are “too liberal.” But those who felt that way were split between Klobuchar (35 percent) and Buttigieg (34 percent).

The good news for Democrats is that the division in the party is not primarily over issues. Fifty years ago, Democrats were facing bitter internal conflicts over civil rights and the Vietnam war. Today, there is one powerful issue holding Democrats together: hatred of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE. The bad news for Democrats is that the party does not seem to have a charismatic figure like a Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonIs Congress reasserting itself? Trump-Biden debate: High risk vs. low expectations The role (un)happiness plays in how people vote MORE or a Barack Obama — or a Ronald Reagan or even a Donald Trump — who can thrill and inspire the party faithful.

A Democratic strategist told the Washington Post after the New Hampshire primary, “I think we’re getting to the point where either we all consolidate behind Mike Bloomberg or Bernie Sanders becomes our nominee.” Bloomberg does not exude charisma. He exudes competence. Moreover, he’s a multibillionaire, one of the richest people in the world, and he made his fortune on Wall Street — a perfect foil for Bernie Sanders. Unlike Donald Trump, Bloomberg does not fancy himself a populist. He’s an elitist. His message seems to be, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing. And I know what’s good for you.”

Bloomberg will have to bump off both Klobuchar and Buttigieg on Super Tuesday. Then he will have to face bitter opposition from Sanders supporters, who are already accusing Bloomberg of trying to buy the nomination. They will be watchful that the Democratic establishment is not “rigging the system” in Bloomberg’s favor. 

Now that Iowa and New Hampshire are over, the nominating process is about to undergo a fundamental change. From now on, the primaries and caucuses will take place in states with more diverse populations, beginning with Nevada (Latinos) on Feb. 22, South Carolina (African-Americans) on Feb. 29 and highly diverse mega-states like California and Texas on Super Tuesday, March 3.

In the 2016 Democratic primaries, when Sanders was running against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAppeals court pauses 6-day extension for counting Wisconsin absentee ballots Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Sunday Shows: Trump's court pick dominates MORE, he did not do well in states with large numbers of minority voters. African-American and Latino voters were crucial to Clinton’s narrow victory in the 2016 primaries. We are about to see whether Sanders is facing a similar problem this year.

Bill Schneider is a professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and author of ‘Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable (Simon & Schuster).