MANCHESTER, N.H. ― After a disappointingly messy Iowa caucuses, the Democratic Party is hoping for a straight-forward and clean election Tuesday in New Hampshire, the second state to vote in the presidential primary.
The candidates have largely spent the past week up here, with a cluster of candidates hoping to make it into the top three vote-getters.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is widely expected to do well, and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has seen a burst of attention after coming in strong in Iowa.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden is already playing down expectations, publicly saying he doesn’t expect to do well in the state. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) is hoping to place near the top in order to stay in the top tier, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) is rising in the polls after a strong debate performance.
Here are some things to watch for in the New Hampshire primary:
Biden Playing Down New Hampshire
Biden came in fourth place in the Iowa caucuses, a disappointing showing for the man considered the frontrunner in the race. And then at the Democratic debate a few days later, Biden essentially wrote off New Hampshire, saying, “I took a hit in Iowa, and I’ll probably take a hit here.” Traditionally, Bernie won by 20 points last time. And usually it’s the neighboring senators that do well.
His comment at the debate was an attempt to lower expectations, but it also could have the effect of dampening enthusiasm.
“I was kind of discouraged when I saw him writing off New Hampshire,” said Alexandra Argasinsky, a Windham resident leaning toward Biden. “He needs to keep campaigning, keep meeting voters and keep trying to get his message out. So I would encourage him not to give up on New Hampshire yet.”
Biden’s team worked to clean up the remarks, insisting that it was competing heavily in the state and not giving up yet. But it was a clear sign that it’s not expecting to come out on top in New Hampshire. His team has stressed that it sees the first four states as a package and believes he will do better in Nevada and South Carolina, which are more racially diverse.
Still, a heavy loss in New Hampshire will deepen questions about his electability that are already starting to rise.
Buttigieg Benefiting From Iowa Win
Buttigieg is currently leading in delegates in the Iowa caucuses, but a win in New Hampshire would solidify his position in the race and help sustain his campaign as the race shifts to the contests in Nevada and South Carolina, which boast more racially diverse communities where he has struggled to gain traction.
Buttigieg has been taking fire from all sides ― mostly over his experience and wealthy donors ― but that hasn’t deterred curious voters of all ages from packing his events in record numbers to hear his pitch about “turning the page” and unifying the country to oust Trump in November. Many of them said they found the 38-year-old former mayor impressive regardless of the fact that he lacked the accomplishments of the other candidates in the race.
“How about all the experience Trump had? None. Zero. Less than zero,” said one New Hampshire voter who turned out to see him in Keene over the weekend.
The Race For Third Place
Sanders is expected to do well in New Hampshire, just as he did in Iowa. But beyond that, the candidates are fighting to remain in the top three. Buttigieg has momentum and renewed interest after his strong showing in Iowa, Biden is fighting to show that he’s still the most electable and Warren is looking for a path to break out. Klobuchar has also been drawing larger crowds and attracted positive press after her strong debate performance last week. Polls show her closing in on the top tier.
Where Independents Go
Independent voters make up a sizable share ― 42% ― of the New Hampshire electorate, and where they go could be key to who wins here. There’s no competitive GOP primary on Tuesday, meaning more independents will be voting in the Democratic primary.
More independents could be a problem with Warren, who runs strong with Democratic voters but behind with independents.
A Monmouth University poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters released last week put Warren in fourth place with 13% of the vote overall. But Warren earned the support of 21% of registered Democrats, trailing only Sanders. Her standing was hurt because just 5% of independents said they planned to back her. (Other polls in New Hampshire, including ones by Marist College, WBUR and Suffolk University, find similar gaps.)
Warren gets significant support from Democratic women, and her progressive policies may not play as well with more moderate or conservative voters. While Sanders is also obviously progressive, his refusal to officially join the Democratic Party and the fact that he often highlights his disagreements with the party make him less of a partisan figure to some.
No Problems Like Iowa
New Hampshire is not a caucus system. It’s just a regular old election where people go to the polls and vote. They don’t have to use an app, and they don’t have to commit to an hourslong process that involves convincing people to switch sides.
It’s run by professional election officials, rather than the Democratic Party, and the person who gets the most votes will win the state.
Of course, there have been plenty of elections beset by problems in this country, but New Hampshire officials say they feel confident that their primary will be less chaotic than the Iowa caucuses.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.
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