WASHINGTON – Within hours of polls closing in New Hampshire, three Democratic presidential candidates called it quits, leaving behind a field with only one candidate of color and a solidified group of top contenders.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., ended their campaigns nearly an hour after most polls closed Tuesday in New Hampshire. Wednesday morning, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick ended his campaign, after saying Tuesday he was going to discuss the future of his run with his wife.
All three candidates pointed to their low finish in the first-in-the-nation primary state. Yang got 2.8% of the votes, while Patrick and Bennet got 0.4% and 0.3%, respectively.
“You know, I am the math guy, and it is clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race,” Yang told supporters at an election night rally Tuesday evening.
“We’ve accomplished so much together,” he said. “We have brought a message of humanity first and a vision of an economy and society that works for us and fellow Americans.”
Here’s what it all means as the race moves toward Nevada:
The race is winnowing
For the first time in almost a year, the Democratic presidential race is down to eight candidates.
But what is more clear than ever, is who is in the top tier of candidates – and who is not. After the first two contests, five candidates have earned national delegates.
Nationally, Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the pack, taking that mantle from former Vice President Joe Biden. A Quinnipiac Poll shows Sanders with 25% support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, ahead of Biden at 17%. That is a 9-point drop for Biden from late January and a 4-point jump for Sanders. The Vermont senator squeezed out a victory in New Hampshire after placing in the top two in Iowa and brings that two-state momentum into Nevada next week.
Biden is still firmly in the top two nationally, according to most polling, but the former vice president faced trouble in the early voting states of Iowa (fourth place) and New Hampshire (fifth place), and that brought questions about his electability. In two national polls after his Iowa finish, Biden dropped to second after holding the first place spot for almost a year. He pinned his presidential hopes on the later early voting states of Nevada and South Carolina, as well as delegate-rich Super Tuesday.
Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg has emerged as a formidable candidate after finishing first in Iowa and a close second in New Hampshire. He has the most national delegates, edging Sanders by one. Buttigieg, who competes for the moderate wing of the party, has slowly seen his stature grow over the past several months but still struggles to earn support from voters of color. He has earned about 10% among all Democratic voters in national polls but trails Sanders and Biden by double digits.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren also remain in the top tier and look ahead to Nevada and South Carolina to boost their delegate counts.
Warren placed third in Iowa, netting her eight delegates, but failed to break double digits in New Hampshire. She trails Sanders and Buttigieg in the national delegate count and remains steadfast that her campaign is built for the long game. At times, she was a front-runner in Iowa and New Hampshire, but her national poll numbers have lingered in the mid-teens for months.
Klobuchar took fifth place in Iowa, then surged in the New Hampshire primary, placing third with nearly 20% support. Her leap into the top three helped her campaign gain the funds and traction she needs going into Nevada and South Carolina. But Klobuchar has struggled to make waves with black and Latino voters and has to play catch-up to some of her Democratic rivals.
A lack of early state polling and low poll numbers nationally make it hard to tell whether other Democrats’ campaigns are gaining traction. None has earned any national delegates.
What’s still not settled?
The biggest unknown is where Mike Bloomberg fits in.
The former New York City mayor opted out of competing in the early voting states and focused primarily in Super Tuesday states. It’s unclear how he’ll fare, but his profile has risen nationally, and he enjoys double-digit support in several recent national polls.
Bloomberg’s candidacy is untested. He has largely avoided attacks from other Democrats, and he has yet to qualify for a debate stage, which could bring a barrage of fire. His record on issues related to race has been called into question, most recently when his comments about New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy resurfaced.
Diversity in the field is almost totally gone
The 2020 Democratic presidential field was once among the largest and most diverse groups of candidates the party had ever seen.
Now, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is of Samoan descent, is the only candidate of color left after Yang and Patrick dropped out. Gabbard is still chugging along despite her low finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire and is pushing forward to South Carolina.
Before the first caucuses in Iowa, the field saw three other candidates of color drop out: Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker. The three cited lack of campaign funds.
Those three candidates, as well as their staff, criticized the rules for candidates to get on the Democratic primary debate stage, as well as media coverage.
Castro’s communication director, Sawyer Hackett, criticized New Hampshire’s results late Tuesday evening.
“Imagine what the field and frontrunners would look like if the media didn’t spend the past 4 years telling us only white men are electable,” Hackett tweeted.
Endorsements could move bodies
One major thing to watch going forward is who earns endorsements from the candidates that have dropped out.
As the field tightens, Democratic candidates will need to court as many newly unattached voters as possible.
Castro endorsed Warren a few days after he left the race in early January.
Yang, who has not signaled whether he will endorse another candidate, would be a big get for the Democratic contenders still in the field. Yang has a passionate and devoted following, known as the Yang Gang, and it’s likely his endorsement could push his followers toward that candidate.
Many members of the Yang Gang weren’t typically engaged in previous elections. Some are former Republicans and Trump supporters or first-time voters. Their engagement would be beneficial to any candidate, as well as the Democratic Party.