Which Democrat REALLY had the best night?


Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Pete ButtigiegImage copyright
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The second contest for the Democratic nomination is in the books and like any good horse race, it seems the top three are the ones who will finish in the money.

Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar separated themselves from the field and are the only candidates who will win the all-important delegates.

New Hampshire also punctured the hopes of several candidates who at various times in the past year were considered frontrunners – Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

While this isn’t the end of their hopes, the post-campaign, green pastures are beckoning.

Here’s a closer look at who’s up and who’s down after the New Hampshire dust has settled.


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Sanders is greeted by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Bernie Sanders

Four years ago, Bernie Sanders took the New Hampshire primary with 60% of the vote. He didn’t come close to that mark this time, but given the depth of the field the achievement is equally impressive.

What’s more, the order of the finishers helps Sanders, as well. Biden – the only candidate he trails in national polling – is wounded, perhaps mortally so. Pete Buttigieg finished a strong second, but his success outside the first two states is still an open question. Warren, his closest rival for the liberal left vote, has yet to prove she can finish near Sanders. Amy Klobuchar’s success ensures she’ll stick around and the moderate support will remain splintered.

In 2016 Sanders hit an electoral brick wall after New Hampshire. With plenty of money, a battle-tested national campaign organisation and divided opposition, his path ahead – while far from certain – looks the brightest of any in the field. He would be the most left-wing candidate the party has nominated since George McGovern, however, and there are plenty of establishment Democrats old enough to have heart palpitations remembering the 1972 drubbing he took at the hands of Richard Nixon.

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Pete Buttigieg

No candidate in modern political history has finished outside the top two in New Hampshire and gone on to win their party’s nomination, which makes Buttigieg’s second-place showing a significant accomplishment.

After winning the most delegates in Iowa, the former South Bend mayor surged in New Hampshire and finished close enough to Sanders to leave the final outcome of the primary in doubt for hours. In fact, he may end up with the same number of delegates in New Hampshire as Sanders.

Buttigieg has proven he’s for real in Iowa and New Hampshire. Now he has to prove he can make quick headway in states where he hasn’t spent nearly as much time campaigning. He’ll need to win over minority voters and compete on the national playing field, while convincing voters Amy Klobuchar isn’t the fresh-faced moderate worthy of their support.

While many better-known candidates have faltered, he has more than earned the opportunity to try.

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Amy Klobuchar

Iowa was supposed to be the launching point for the senator from the nearby state of Minnesota – if she was going to have one. It turns out, however, snow-covered New Hampshire was the state that warmed to her pitch of moderate pragmatism.

Unlike the other top finishers, Klobuchar had her back to the wall in New Hampshire. If she had stayed mired in the single digits she occupied just a week ago, she probably would have been done for good. Instead, she lives to fight another day.

She clearly benefited from late-deciding voters breaking her way after a strong performance in Friday’s candidate debate and Biden’s New Hampshire support collapsed. She’ll have to replenish her campaign coffers quickly, however, if she wants to take advantage of any momentum out of New Hampshire in the states to come.

Otherwise she could end up this year’s version of Republican John Kasich in 2016 – buoyed by a surprising New Hampshire result that, if anything, only helped to divide the moderate vote and allow the anti-establishment candidate to roll along.

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Andrew Yang

Ok, so the tech entrepreneur finished with only around 3% of the vote and dropped out shortly after the New Hampshire polls closed. But a tech entrepreneur who virtually no one had heard of finished with 3% of the vote, raised tens of millions of dollars for his campaign and landed a spot in all but one of the party debates. That is a remarkable achievement.

Yang attracted a loyal following, particularly among young voters otherwise uninterested in politics, who travelled to campaign for him from around the country. While it didn’t translate into votes, future candidates might want to consider how, and why, he inspired such devotion.


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Joe Biden

The outlook for the former vice-president in New Hampshire was so bleak, he didn’t even stick around the state to watch the returns come in. While both Iowa and New Hampshire were never going to be his best states, the supposed front-runner – the one who has made a case that he’s the most electable candidate – needed to do better than fourth and then fifth-place finishes.

Now the campaign is in Helm’s Deep mode, retreating behind the castle walls in South Carolina to make his last stand. Already there are indications that his backing among black voters, the bulwark of his support there, could be sinking. If that trend holds, it’s all but over for the man who stood atop national polls for most of 2019.

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Elizabeth Warren

At this point, Warren’s campaign is in serious trouble. She has now finished well behind Sanders – her liberal rival – twice, and there’s no indication that her fortunes will change anytime soon. Biden at least still clings to the hope of a South Carolina rebirth. Warren’s resurrection ground is difficult to discern.

New Hampshire may end up being viewed as the deciding battleground state between the two favourites of grass-roots progressives. Both candidates hailed from neighbouring states, and both committed considerable resources to the effort. Sanders won; Warren finished a distant fourth, with single-digit support.

It ended up not even being close.

Warren’s best chance at this point is to hope for all-out war between the moderate Democrats and Sanders that leaves both sides diminished. Then she can position herself as compromise candidate that emerges from the smoking wreckage.

It’s a long-shot play, however, and a remarkable reversal of fortune for someone who for a stretch last year seemed like she could become the candidate to beat.

Everyone else

Deval Patrick, Michael Bennet and Tulsi Gabbard were counting on New Hampshire to breath life into their campaigns. Instead, it was the end of the road for Bennet and all but curtains for the other two.

The race is now finally down to single digits among declared candidates, although the final outcome is still far from clear. Michael Bloomberg and his billions still hovers over as a great unknown in the race, as attention now turns to Nevada, South Carolina and the states to come.

Take a closer look at the candidates

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