In the wake of the Democrats‘ Iowa debacle, the New Hampshire primary may determine the party’s 2020 nominee. It is more likely, however, that it will do no more than throw fuel on the growing fire of the Democrats’ burgeoning political civil war and, while Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will garner headlines, the real importance of New Hampshire could be the fate of Sen Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and former Vice President Joe Biden.
In modern politics, the barrier to entering the race to become president has become quite low. Hence, more than two dozen Democrats joined the race. That wide, 2020 field of Democrats means a broad spectrum of candidates has now winnowed into two broad camps: the far-left Sanders/Warren camp and all of the others said to be “moderate” by comparison to Sanders and Warren.
According to the Iowa results, the Sanders/Warren faction garners the support of roughly 44 percent of the Democratic voters. The latest New Hampshire polling places that uneasy alliance at between 40 and 42 percent. In the all-important state of California, with its 495 delegates, that number is between 44 and 46 percent as well.
The most likely outcome of the New Hampshire primary that matters is not just that Sanders will likely win and that Buttigieg will come in second. If Bernie wins and Iowa is decided in his favor after a potential recanvass, keep in mind, Ed Muskie is the only Democratic candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire and then be denied the nomination.
Beyond Bernie’s consecutive victories, what will matter most is that the Sanders/Warren wing of the party will continue to garner such a large block of the voters. That block of voters is more energized and committed than the so-called moderate block.
After New Hampshire, the person to watch could well be Warren, not Sanders. If Sanders continues to finish higher than Warren, it is quite likely that Warren’s support will begin to move from her camp to Sanders’. That promises to hand Sanders more victories on Super Tuesday, including in all-important California. Sanders is in the lead in California and has the best operation there by far in part because that operation still exists from his run in 2016 — a dynamic that helps him all over the country.
Beyond that, California has moved farther left along with Sanders and every victory he gets only brings him reinforcements, not to mention money. Sanders raised a staggering $25 million in January alone. In short, one result of New Hampshire will be Sanders gaining momentum, which causes great fear from the likes of James Carville to Chris Mathews to moderate Democrats everywhere.
As for that so-called moderate camp, New Hampshire will reaffirm once more that Biden has never won a primary or caucus. As I wrote last April, Biden has often looked good on paper as a candidate but has never performed well as a presidential candidate in the past — and he is not now.
At best, Biden will finish 3rd or 4th in New Hampshire and his fundraising will take a further hit. That result likely will mean that Biden’s so-called electability moniker will be finished once and for all. After all, you cannot be electable if you cannot win the nomination.
While Biden likely won’t drop out right away, Buttigieg’s expected strong finish in New Hampshire will reinforce the split among the so-called moderates. After New Hampshire, Buttigieg, Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will fight for the non-Sanders mantle with Tom Steyer siphoning off votes to varying degrees depending on the state.
Among those three, Buttigieg, Biden and Bloomberg, the first to drop out will likely be Biden as his fundraising fortunes lag. Meanwhile, Buttigieg will have received another bump. Even so, questions for Buttigieg will remain. Biden was right to bring up Buttigieg’s weakness with minority voters. After New Hampshire, the question will be whether Buttigieg can place well or win in other states.
One important likely result of New Hampshire will be that the leader of the so-called moderate Democratic faction won’t be settled any time soon. Further, with more candidates vying for that mantle than the socialist wing mantle, simple mathematics tells you that the moderate wing candidates will split that delegate pool so much that no one of those candidates will have as many delegates as Sanders by the end of Super Tuesday.
As for the remaining Democrat candidates, Sen Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Steyer and Andrew Yang, some will likely soldier on through Super Tuesday. Steyer and Yang because they have the money and Klobuchar because she is the Democrats’ best vice presidential candidate.
After New Hampshire and until their July convention the most visible aspect of the Democrats’ nomination process may well be their internal and messy fight to stop Bernie Sanders — not their effort to defeat President Trump.