So uh, let’s try this thing again. Tuesday offers the first primary contest of the 2020 nomination process. There exists the very strong possibility that tomorrow night the Granite State will count actual ballots cast by actual voters, which is an exciting and unique thing indeed.
Before we get to the candidates here, it might be good to do a little refresher on the primary process.
For starters, state parties do get leeway in the primary process, to a point. Decades ago, the Democrats diverged from the all-or-nothing, winner takes all delegates procedures followed in the general election for electors and by the Republicans in their primaries. In general, the DNC requires that all states allocate at least 1 or more delegates to the national convention for any candidate who manages to earn 15% of the vote in any given state. The rest of the allocation percentage is allowed to be decided by the state parties, with the approval of the national committee.
New Hampshire gets 33 delegates to the National Convention, but only 24 of them are going to be allocated based on the Primary results. The other 9 are basically “We’re with you folks” superdelegates that consist of the current congressional delegation and past Democratic party bigwigs.Those supers don’t get to do any voting except to break ties.
Polls in New Hampshire close at 7pm in most areas of the state. We should start getting lots of results by 7:30-8pm ET. Knock wood.
Big thing to watch for is voter turnout. Turnout wasn’t great in Iowa last week. Democrats are hoping to do better in New Hampshire in the primary format. 253,000 people voted in the 2016 Democratic primary, so that’s the bar to clear Tuesday.
OK, about those candidates…
1. Bernie Sanders If Bernie doesn’t win – and doesn’t win by 6-10 points – it’s going to be a bit of a shocker, frankly. While it can be said with equal truth that New Hampshire is a Bernie border state, it is also true that New Hampshire’s political demography is much different from Vermont. Still, though, Bernie won here comfortably in 2016. Polling averages at 538 have held steady with Bernie at a 5% lead, but Emerson and Suffolk trackers seem to have trended Sanders’s direction in the last few days that suggest 5% as a floor for the margin.
If Sanders wins by a decent margin, he’s going to carry some decent momentum into a state where he should do quite well – Nevada. Then it’s all there in front of him to win.
2. Pete Buttigieg Pete’s best case scenario for New Hampshire is looking like a close loss, but even that may have slipped away a bit. And in any event, it’s not totally clear what Pete gains here, since states in the immediate primary calendar coming up DO NOT favor him at all. In the past week, it’s been Buttigieg and not Sanders who’s drawn most of the incoming attacks of other candidates. You’d expect Bernie to come for him, but so too have Klobuchar, Warren, and Biden. And I think it’s had an impact, but we’ll see tomorrow night by about 10pm or so. About the only path that makes a lot of sense for Pete right now is somehow to pull off a miracle win on Tuesday and then find some momentum into Nevada. And then to see where things stand after that.
3. Amy Klobuchar It’s a sort of mini Klobucharge in New Hampshire! The senator had a fantastic debate on Friday and is in a virtual 3-way tie for third with Warren and Biden. It is entirely possible she could finish 3rd on Tuesday night, which would be a coup for her and an utter disaster for Warren and Biden both. Klobuchar may be able to peel off a state or two on Super Tuesday, but her best case looks like a close third behind Mayor Pete tomorrow.
4. Elizabeth Warren I want to preface this by saying: I really, relly like Elizabeth Warren a LOT. But…it’s getting harder and harder to see a path for her. Basically, she desperately needs to finish close to the top in New Hampshire. Maybe she’s still got some strong chance in Nevada instead. But what seems like a reasonable possibility is a 4th place finish in New Hampshire…and potentially finishing under the 15% viability threshold. In fact, I think it’s really likely that whomever finishes 4th in NH will indeed be below that magic number. If that happens, I’m not sure what path remains for Warren.
5. Joe Biden There’s a real, and perhaps even likely possibility that of the three bunched-up candidates below the top two, that Biden could finish 5th on Tuesday night. It’s hard to imagine a bigger disaster for his campaign than that, as it will further erode his “electability” argument that’s already been shipping water since Iowa. A third or fourth and Joe may have some momentum heading to Nevada, a labor-heavy state he might perform well in. But there’s also a chance that a fifth place crumbles his firewall in South Carolina at the end of the month, too.
6. Michael Bloomberg Bloomie IS NOT on the New Hampshire ballot. But his profile is rising over the past week. His popularity must be utterly confounding to the other two billionaires in the race – Steyer and Yang have both spent prodigiously, yet neither can poll nationally like Bloomberg can (Steyer is focusing his ad buys in South Carolina for the moment, and is surging there; so there’s that.) And if you’re Pete Buttigieg, you’re looking at a Mayor who has at least as much of a troublesome history with how his city dealt with racial tensions…and yet black voters seem to be not only very open to Bloomberg, but downright affectionate towards him.
It also may be, as Nate Silver has theorized, that “Michael Bloomberg” has become a stand-in name that means “undecided”, and thus the surge in polling numbers for Bloomberg could subside as we get to Super Tuesday in three weeks. But he is absolutely worth watching at this point.
In about an hour we’ll have actual reported results from Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location and the contest will be underway!