NH primary highlights contrasting candidates

New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary has resulted in a win for Bernie Sanders, thanks in large part to strong backing from younger voters. He was followed in a close second place by the rising star of the centrists, Pete Buttigieg.
Former vice president Joe Biden, who had been considered the favorite before the race began, ended up with another poor showing, after Iowa, coming in fifth.


Importance of New Hampshire

The northeastern state of New Hampshire is bordered by Canada to the north. Its population is little over 1.3 million, 90% of which is white.
The state's primary is the first of each US presidential race. Unlike the caucuses held in Iowa, where party members decide which candidate to support, voters' preferences are reflected more objectively. It's considered a useful signpost for subsequent primaries elsewhere.

No previous candidates have ever won their party's nomination without securing either first or second place in both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries.

For candidates trailing after Iowa, the stakes are high in New Hampshire, leading to high drama and media attention. The 2020 primary was no different.

Sanders as front-runner

Bernie Sanders made clear his intentions in his winning speech:

"This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump."

Opinion polls heading into the vote predicted Sanders would take New Hampshire. Not only does he represent the neighboring state of Vermont, but he also beat Hilary Clinton here back in 2016.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is considered a left-leaning candidate who has gained broad support among young people for his focus on closing the gap between rich and poor. Two of his main policies call for making public colleges tuition-free, and universal healthcare.

His policy platform stands in stark contrast to Trump. Sanders supporters say that will be a big draw if the two face off for the White House in November.

Professor Paul Sracic, an expert on US politics at Youngstown State university in Ohio, says Sanders is the front-runner at this point:

"Sanders arguably won Iowa. Now, he's won again in New Hampshire, so this puts him in a very good position.

"If you look at national polls, he has now overtaken former vice president Biden to be the leader."

Paul Sracic, Professor at Youngstown State University

But some moderates within the democratic Party have been reluctant to embrace his so-called "political revolution."

In other words, there's concern that Sanders, who is confrontational and seeking bold reforms, will not be able to gain the support of moderate and unaffiliated voters needed to defeat Trump.

How did the others fare?

Buttigieg was a close runner-up, keeping the momentum he built up in the first contest in Iowa last week. He sounded a confident note in the speech he delivered to supporters on Tuesday, saying he is going to bring this impetus to Nevada and South Carolina. He also said he will win over new supporters.

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar, also a moderate, put up a good fight and secured third place. Sracic says she exceeded expectations:

"It's always kind of interesting with these early primaries in American politics that expectations are the game. She wasn't expected to be there. You pointed out she's doing better now than before.

"Female voters are very important in 2020. You see how energized all the voters are."

Progressive Elizabeth Warren and moderate Biden didn't fare well in New Hampshire, following their disappointing results in Iowa.

Warren is struggling to build more support, but it's possible that support for progressives may unite behind Sanders.

Biden saw his support sagging as former South Bend mayor Buttigieg and Klobuchar had strong showings.

Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden

What's next?

Sracic says Biden's fate depends on the next primary, in South Carolina:
"There are a lot of African-American voters [in South Carolina] and African-American voters in the US are the base of the Democratic Party.

"He's got an argument that he's still strongest candidate because he's the one that can appeal to African-American voters. That's why South Carolina is so crucial for him."

Now the rival campaigns are setting their sights on upcoming contests in Nevada and South Carolina, both set for later this month.