Bernie Sanders is the front-runner of a muddled race.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Senator Bernie Sanders won the most votes in Iowa, even if he narrowly lost the delegate battle. He won the New Hampshire primary. His support among people of color has grown in polls, while his chief competitor for those voters, Joseph R. Biden Jr., has been fading in the overall contest. He has climbed to the lead in some national polls. And he is raising more money — and has more money — than any of his rivals who are not billionaires.
Meet the new front-runner of the 2020 Democratic primary.
After two contests, Mr. Sanders is in an indisputably enviable position. Still, there are caveats. His victory and near-victory both came with a historically low share of the overall vote. He was on pace to carry New Hampshire with less than 27 percent of the vote, which would be the lowest total ever for a winner. His vote share in Iowa was similarly sized.
But winning is winning and the moderate ledger of the Democratic primary is as fractured as ever — to Mr. Sanders’s great advantage.
Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., finished in the top two in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota surprised with a third-place showing in New Hampshire. But neither of those candidates have demonstrated any appeal to black and Latino voters so far. And a candidate who has, Mr. Biden, stumbled to a fourth-place finish in Iowa and was in fifth place in New Hampshire.
Mr. Sanders has another thing going for him: Two bases, one demographic and one ideological. New Hampshire exit polls show him carrying about half of voters under 30 — a share no other candidate can claim for any demographic slice — and nearly half of very liberal voters.
Next up on the calendar is Nevada, a caucus state that can reward candidates with energized bases and larger political organizations, which suits Mr. Sanders particularly well.
Joe Biden is on the ropes.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke to supporters in Columbia, S.C., on Tuesday night.Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times
This was not the beginning that the Biden campaign had envisioned. Mr. Biden had entered the 2020 contest last spring as the well-liked two-term vice president to one of the country’s most popular Democrats, Barack Obama. He benefited from head-to-head polls that showed him as the strongest general election contender for the Democrats — a party singularly obsessed with beating President Trump.
Yet in the first two contests, Mr. Biden finished fourth and fifth. In New Hampshire, he did not receive a single delegate.
If winning is contagious, losing can be an even more infectious campaign disease. It erodes support, money and confidence in a sudden rush of voter and donor panic. And Mr. Biden now faces more than two weeks — an interminably long stretch — until the primary on the calendar his advisers have long circled as his political “firewall”: South Carolina’s. It was telling that when he ditched New Hampshire before the polls closed, he headed there instead of Nevada, whose nominating contest is next.
To the extent that the traditional structures of the Democratic establishment are set to mobilize against Mr. Sanders out of fear of his revolutionary brand of democratic socialism, it is no longer clear that Mr. Biden would be the beneficiary. Mr. Buttigieg has finished above him twice, Ms. Klobuchar’s moderate brand caught fire late in New Hampshire, and the self-funding billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg is pounding the airwaves in Super Tuesday states and offering a refuge for the restless establishmentarians.
That said, the race’s fluidity is not to be underestimated. Ms. Klobuchar was more of an asterisk than anything a few short weeks ago. A single strong debate elevated her here, and Mr. Biden still has chances to make a fresh impression.
Pete Buttigieg can compete (in very white states).
The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., scored another impressive showing in a state where nearly everybody looks like him.
A second-place finish by Mr. Buttigieg in New Hampshire and a delegate victory in Iowa will lend his campaign major momentum. The question now is what, exactly, will happen to that energy as the contest moves to a more diverse playing field.
Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign has spent months trying to win over people of color, highlighting policy plans and a handful of endorsements from black lawmakers.
Yet in polling, Mr. Buttigieg has shown no strength with the black and Latino voters who make up a significant portion of the Democratic Party electorate in Nevada and South Carolina, the next two nominating contests. After that, the race moves to Super Tuesday, a mix of big, diverse states like California and Texas, and Southern states where black people are expected to make up a majority of Democratic voters.
Mr. Buttigieg’s team hopes that wining begets more winning, citing the experience of Barack Obama in the 2008 primary race. The next few weeks will test whether a white man can replicate the electoral success of the first black president.
Elizabeth Warren is headed in the wrong direction.
After her relatively strong third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, Ms. Warren’s campaign came to New Hampshire and made minimal adjustments, hoping the same message of unity she closed with in Iowa would lift her as rivals began taking more overt shots at one another.
Her support fell. She won no delegates. And now she faces a potentially more tricky calendar, after two losses in the two states she had most banked on in February.
If Mr. Biden is still hoping to turn his fortunes around in South Carolina, Ms. Warren’s campaign does not have a similar state for safe harbor.
In a lengthy memo sent out before Tuesday night’s results arrived, the Warren campaign argued that in the “fractured” 2020 field, only three candidates were on pace to seriously contest the huge set of delegate-rich states that will vote on Super Tuesday: Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden. A few hours later, two of those candidates received less than 10 percent support in New Hampshire (her and Mr. Biden).
The good news: Ms. Warren’s campaign has a head start in the Super Tuesday contests, having built a 1,000-person staff, including Iowa and New Hampshire aides with redeployment orders.
The bad news: Her bet in organizing at the local level and embedding in communities in the first two states did not pay off.
The worse news: Campaign costs will only escalate from here, and records show that Ms. Warren’s online base of small-dollar donors has given far more in heady times than tough ones.
Amy Klobuchar caught on at the right moment.
Amy Klobuchar doesn’t particularly care how you spell it, as long as voters feel it. She rose in the polls in New Hampshire at the exact right time, parlaying the chaos out of Iowa and a strong performance in Friday night’s debate into a third-place finish.
While coming in fifth in last week’s Iowa caucuses didn’t place her in the top tier of the race, her team saw room to expand her support amid the independent-leaning, more fiscally conservative Democratic electorate in New Hampshire. Her campaign mounted a furious six-day sprint through the state, partially funded by an influx of $5 million in donations received after the debate.
In the coming days, she plans to move staff members into Nevada, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states, as well as expand her team. On Wednesday, she’s beginning a seven-figure ad buy in Nevada.
Still, she faces an immediate uphill battle. Like Mr. Buttigieg, Ms. Klobuchar has shown little strength with black and Latino voters in polling, and the next two states on the primary calendar, Nevada and South Carolina, are far more diverse, as are many of those that vote on Super Tuesday in March.
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