WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders emerged as the winner in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday, but former mayor Pete Buttigieg trailed closely behind. Sen. Amy Klobuchar finished third.
“Thank you, New Hampshire,” Sanders told supporters. “Let me take this opportunity to thank the people of New Hampshire for a great victory tonight.”
But Sanders’ narrow victory leaves the Democratic field unsettled with no clear frontrunner.
The Vermont senator had been heavily favored to win the state where he trounced Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by more than 20 percentage points. In the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary, Sanders had a comfortable lead in state polling by nearly 7 percentage points, according to an average by Real Clear Politics.
Sanders also had a home-field advantage, as he is the senator of neighboring Vermont and has also campaigned in the Granite State before.
Although Sanders will gain momentum from his win, it’s not enough to allow him to break away from the pack.
Sanders’ first place finish in New Hampshire comes days after he finished in the top two in the Iowa caucuses. The Iowa Democratic party said Buttigieg won the most pledged delegates, though Sanders won a slightly larger share of the popular votes
Buttigieg faces challenges in the next two Democratic contests, the Nevada caucus on Feb. 22 and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29. The two states are much more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire and Buttigieg has struggled to gain support from black and Latino voters.
Here are some of the top takeaways from New Hampshire’s primary.
Klobuchar is having a moment. At least, she did in New Hampshire. The U.S. senator from Minnesota had finished in fifth place in Iowa. But in New Hampshire, she bested Sen. Elizabeth Warren – who had advantages in the Granite State, which neighbors Warren’s home state of Massachusetts.
“Thank you New Hampshire. We love you New Hampshire,” Klobuchar told her supporters at her campaign headquarters in Concord, N.H. “My heart is full tonight. While there are still ballots left to count, we have beaten the odds every step of the way.”
Klobuchar rose to the third spot in polling just a day before the primary, boosted by her strong debate performance on Friday in New Hampshire. Nearly half of voters in the state said they made up their mind on who they were going to vote for in the last couple of days leading up to the primary.
Klobuchar has cast herself as a centrist alternative to progressives such as Sanders and Warren.
“I do not have to biggest name up on this stage, I don’t have the biggest bank account,” she said in her closing statement at the debate. “I’m not a political newcomer with no record, but I have a record of fighting for people… I’m asking you to believe that someone who totally believes in America can win this, because if you are tired of the extremes in our politics and the noise and the nonsense, you have a home with me.”
Klobuchar’s strong finish could help bring in much needed money as she looks toward the Nevada caucus on Feb. 22 and South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 29. Klobuchar is standing in the lower single digits in both those states, according to an average of polling from Real Clear Politics.
The Minnesota senator, who has touted her Midwestern roots, has struggled to gain traction with black and Latino voters. According to a January Washington Post/Ipsos poll, Klobuchar is at 0% with black voters nationally.
The next hurdle for Klobuchar is to see if she can maintain that energy going forward into much more diverse states.
“The acceleration of this race is hard to capture,” David Plouffe, the 2008 campaign manager for Barack Obama, said on MSNBC. “She’s got to now put together a national campaign overnight.”
Klobuchar campaign manager Justin Buoen wrote on Twitter that the campaign had raised more than $2.5 million since the polls closed in New Hampshire.
Surveys of voters taken before polls closed in the Granite State highlighted the extent to which the race was in flux.
Nearly half of those surveyed said they decided on their candidate in the past few days, according to an exit poll conducted for CNN and other television networks.
In addition, about half of those surveyed said Friday’s debate in Manchester was an important factor in deciding their vote for president.
By a roughly 2-1 margin, voters said they are looking for a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump over one who agrees with them on the issues. Eight in 10 of those surveyed said they were “angry” about the Trump administration.
About four in 10 cited health care as the most important issue, and six in 10 said they could support a single-government plan, such as Medicare for All, a proposal touted by Sanders. Climate change was the next most often cited issue with about 3 in 10 naming it their top concern.
The exit polls, conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, were based on interviews conducted throughout the day with 1,947 randomly selected Democratic primary voters at 45 wards in New Hampshire. Results for the full sample had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden placed fifth in New Hampshire, behind Warren, a showing that raised new doubts about his viability. He came in fourth in Iowa.
Long seen as the Democratic frontrunner, Biden has seen is national poll numbers plummet following his Iowa loss.
Biden didn’t stick around to await the New Hampshire results. He headed instead to South Carolina, a state with a large proportion of African American voters where he has been leading in the polls. Over the past several days, Biden and his campaign had sought to lower expectations in New Hampshire and Iowa. They have argued that the two states, which are overwhelmingly white, are not representative of the broader Democratic electorate.
Biden is polling at 31% in South Carolina, according to an average of surveys from Real Clear Politics. He video chatted into his New Hampshire rally from Columbia, South Carolina as results from the primary continued to roll in.
Biden went on to speak to supporters in South Carolina as results continued to come in. He noted that “the most committed constituency in the Democratic Party, the African American community” and “the fastest growing segment of society, the Latino community,” have yet to vote.
“So to hear all these pundits and experts, all these cable TV talkers talk about the race, tell them: ‘it ain’t over, man. We’re just getting started. Our votes count too,'” he told voters at his Columbia rally.
Biden has repeatedly argued he is the best candidate to take on Trump. But his recent losses substantially undercut his electability argument.
Contributing: Ledyard King, Nicholas Wu and Maureen Groppe