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With about 97% precincts are reporting on the New Hampshire primaries, Sanders is the winner, with Buttigieg a close second, and Klobuchar a surprisingly strong third. Here is my quick analysis of the numbers on the Democratic side. I’ll include an approximate projection of total votes, where relevant, assuming no surprises among the roughly 3% of precincts that have not yet reported.
1. Turnout is up
Democratic turnout is up about 20% in 2020 in NH, compared to 2016, from about 253,000 to about 300,000 (projected; about 290,000 so far). This may indicate increased enthusiasm among Democrats, though it may also be the result of a larger field. Clinton and Sanders were the only two major candidates in 2016, as Martin O’Malley, never a serious contender in any event, had already dropped out.
2. Bernie is way down
Sanders won NH in 2020, with 25.7% of the vote, but this masks his poor performance. I project his vote total to be 78,000 (75,733 thus far). Sanders won NH in 2016 with about 152,000 votes (about 60%).
Thus, Sanders lost about 74,000 votes among NH Democrats. This is doubtless the result of the larger field, but it indicates weak support.
Sanders was second in Iowa also, with 26.1%, almost the same percentage of the vote that he received in NH. (Note: earlier results indicated that Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa, but the latest results indicate that Buttigieg narrowly won.)
This suggests, to me, that Sanders is close to his ceiling of support in the 25-30% range. This seems counterintuitive because he did much better than this in 2016, but I suspect that many Democrats were casting protest votes against the uniquely unattractive Hillary Clinton in 2016. This year, they have more favorable alternatives.
3. Biden and Warren are in trouble
Warren is in fourth with 9.2%, and Biden is heading to a dreadful fifth-place finish with 8.4%. Warren was long expected to do relatively well in NH, as she is from neighboring Massachusetts, so I would have thought that she would appeal to New England Democrats. She did not. Biden’s poor performance may be catastrophic.
4. Klobuchar did extremely well
Klobuchar is heading for a strong third-place finish in NH, with 19.8% of the vote. She received only 12.3% in Iowa, which borders her home state of Minnesota and in which I would have expected her Midwestern appeal to have played well.
The obvious explanation is the collapse of the Biden campaign, which leaves centrist Democrats looking for an alternative.
5. Buttigieg did not surge
Buttigieg is in second in NH, with 24.4%. I mention him last because I think that this is the indication that he has reached his ceiling of popularity. He won Iowa, with 26.2% of the vote.
I find Buttigieg to be quite a chameleon. He has a Midwestern charm, is an excellent speaker, and I think that he has effectively disguised his radicalism. He comes across as a moderate at first glance, but I do not believe that this perception withstands scrutiny of his positions. Also, of course, he was a minor factor until his unexpectedly good performance in Iowa, so he has not been the target of negative ads by other candidates. We’ve already seen this changing since Iowa.
If Buttigieg was going to pick up votes from Biden, I would have expected him to have done so in NH. He did not.
There’s also the homosexuality factor, which has been strangely downplayed by the media. I think that this is going to hurt Buttigieg, especially among black voters. My expectation is that he will do very poorly in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday.
6. Comparisons to the pre-election polls
There were major shifts in the pre-election polls in NH. Here is the comparison between the RCP average of polls one month ago, the final pre-election average of polls, and the reported results — listed in order of who was leading on January 12:
Biden — 23.3% on Jan. 12 — 11.0% final pre-election — 8.4% actual result
Sanders — 22.3% on Jan. 12 — 28.7% final pre-election — 25.7% actual result
Warren — 17.0% on Jan. 12 — 11.0% final pre-election — 9.2% actual result
Buttigieg — 13.3% on Jan. 12 — 21.3% final pre-election — 24.4% actual result
Klobuchar — 5.0% on Jan. 12 — 11.7% final pre-election — 19.8% actual result
Klobuchar is the surging candidate, having roughly quadrupled her percentage over the last month. Buttigieg is second, almost doubling his percentage. Biden and Warren tanked, losing about 2/3 and 1/2 of their support, respectively. Sanders was roughly even.
7. Mini-Mike’s dilemma
Bloomberg was not on the ballot in NH or Iowa, and will not be on any ballot until Super Tuesday. He is surging in the national polls, which currently show (per RCP):
Bloomberg is up from just 6.0% a month ago (Jan. 12). Sanders and Klobuchar are flat in the national polls over the past 30 days, with Biden down sharply, Warren down somewhat, and Buttigieg up moderately.
Mini-Mike now faces a dilemma. I think that he’s going to go forward, and will likely split the moderate vote with Klobuchar (and with Buttigieg to a lesser extent), preventing the emergence of a clear alternative to Sanders.
8. Bernie will have a great summer and a terrible fall
I’m going to risk a prognostication, though obviously much may change. I think that Sanders is well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination. My prediction is that he will continue to get around 25-30% support in most primaries, perhaps rising a bit to the 30-35% range when additional candidates drop out.
At the moment, I think that Warren will withdraw pretty soon, and that Biden and Buttigieg will stay in through Super Tuesday and do poorly. Klobuchar and Bloomberg will split the moderate vote, allowing Sanders to accumulate the most delegates.
So I expect Bernie to have a terrific summer, accepting the Democratic nomination in mid-July. I then expect him to be shellacked by President Trump, in a landslide. Bernie may have a great fall, but only in the Humpty-Dumpty sense.
I do think that either Bloomberg or Klobuchar would do better, though I don’t think that either would beat the President.Published in