2020 vision: Candidates battle in New Hampshire after Iowa uncertainty

With the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump concluded and the train wreck that was the Iowa Democratic caucus fading into the past, the Democratic primary race is now in full swing. After New Hampshire there are clear leaders, but the nomination is still far from a sure thing for any candidate. 

The Granite state is proud of its traditionally important role in the electoral process, but the dynamics of this race are anything but traditional. The momentum that the Iowa winner typically experiences was largely absent from the New Hampshire campaign, although both former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Bernie Sanders finished in the top two spots in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

As election day approached, new polling showed Senator Bernie Sanders in the lead, followed most closely by Pete Buttigieg, and farther back Joe Biden and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. A Monmouth University poll showed that 24% of voters would pick Sanders and 20% for Buttigieg, followed by Biden (17%), Warren (13%) and Klobuchar (9%). With the results in, it appears that the polling was quite accurate in the case of the top two, with Sanders taking first (25.7%), followed by Buttigieg (24.4%). Predictions were off farther down the podium however, with Klobuchar coming in a strong third (19.8%), followed by Warren (9.2%) and Biden (8.4%). 

Sanders’ success in the state is not altogether surprising. As the senator of neighboring Vermont, Sanders has a distinct advantage in the state. Sanders also won New Hampshire before; he beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 60% to 38% in the 2016 primary there. Buttigieg seems to be profiting from his strong showing in Iowa and, along with Sanders, has had upward trending support in the state since earlier this year. Coming off of her impressive performance in Iowa and strong debate, Klobuchar campaigned hard on the ground, which evidently paid off. With her better-than-expected results in the first two states she is a force to be reckoned with, but her momentum will have to carry to later states. Warren’s lack of success is surprising, considering the geographic advantage she shares with Sanders as a neighboring state senator. Biden has long been predicted to fare poorly in New Hampshire, and accordingly did not concentrate much effort there, hoping to right the course of his presidential bid in slightly later states. With his back-to-back poor performances Biden’s position as the “electable moderate” is in question, and without a big win in South Carolina his candidacy could be as well.

Similar to the Republican primary race in 2015, preconceived notions of electability have gone out the window in this contest for the nomination. The candidate considered most conventionally electable, Biden, has suffered and badly needs a win. Unconventional platforms and identities have been the commonality for successful candidates so far, and regardless of the eventual nominee and their success in the general, this race has changed our notions of which candidates and ideas can win elections.