After having no discernible results the night of the Iowa caucuses and unclear results in the following days, the voters of New Hampshire brought some needed clarity to the Democratic presidential primary.
They began by clearing out the detritus. The Granite State electorate demonstrated that Andrew Yang, as fun, easygoing, amiable, and thoughtful as he was, was not going to be a factor at all. The Yang Gang was impassioned, but an “extremely online” phenomenon — loud and seemingly numerous on social media, not so numerous in offline life. That having been said, Yang can fairly ask whether having Iowa and New Hampshire go first puts such candidates as him at a deep disadvantage.
Michael Bennet also departed the race, after telling Time magazine Saturday: “We can surprise a lot of people — and it’s not going to take much to surprise them.” No. Shush. You were always in denial about your odds of victory. The media are not being mean, presumptuous, or closed-minded when they say certain long-shot candidates have no shot, and we are under no obligation to play along with lawmakers who are psychologically delusional about how their campaigns are doing.
Deval Patrick also will depart the race Wednesday. The theme of his rally yesterday was, “it’s never too late.” Actually, it was.
Joe Biden is, if not toast, on life support. On paper, he’s only 15 delegates or so back behind Buttigieg, and only 14 behind Sanders. But getting nothing out of New Hampshire, when he had remained among the front-runners in mid-January, means the bottom has fallen out. (Biden may finish with half the percentage needed to hit the delegate threshold!) Exit polls suggested more moderates were voting for Bernie Sanders than him. His plan is apparently to hope that he still has enough oomph to win South Carolina by a wide margin, and that that win somehow turbocharges him to a good performance on Super Tuesday three days later. That is not a high-probability path to victory.
Elizabeth Warren, by comparison, is toast — or like a character in an M. Night Shyamalan movie, she’s already gone, and is walking around not knowing yet. Her third-place, 20 percent, eight-delegate finish in Iowa was pretty “meh” considering she once led the state, and finishing in fourth place, below the 15-percent threshold for delegates, is pretty disappointing. As a Massachusetts senator, this is her backyard. She’s Biden without the theoretical firewall of South Carolina.
Amy Klobuchar is the buzz-generating surprise winner of the night, and she should savor the victory; third place and around 20 percent in a hard-fought primary is a big deal. She should savor this night because everything gets harder from here: Nevada, South Carolina, Super Tuesday. She needs to pick up a lot of ground, really fast.
Pete Buttigieg could finish with one more delegate than Sanders, but he’s got a tougher road ahead. A close second place is another feather in his cap, but the late surge for Klobuchar suggests the not-openly-socialist wing of the party isn’t ready to unite around him.
Sanders should finish well in Nevada and has his national organization ready to go on Super Tuesday. He is the true front-runner, with the clearest path to the nomination. The Democratic Party establishment that doubts his viability in a general election has every reason in the world to be terrified this evening.
Finally, after turnout in Iowa on the Democratic side was, “eh, okay, I guess,” Democrats are cheering that the turnout is likely to surpass the 287,000 votes cast in the 2008 primary. Secretary of State Bill Gardner on Friday predicted 292,000 votes on the contested Democratic side and 128,000 on the nominally contested Republican side and the final numbers will be somewhere in that neighborhood. In 2016, 287,653 Republican and 254,780 Democratic ballots were cast.
But there’s a catch. New Hampshire today has 276,385 registered Democrats and 415,871 undeclared (independents). In January 2008, the state had 258,776 registered Democrats and 355,498 undeclared. There’s almost 78,000 more voters eligible to vote in this contest than 12 years ago. When you’ve got a bunch more eligible voters and no competitive contest on the GOP side… shouldn’t your party set a turnout record?