Update: Our friends at Decision Desk HQ have also called the race for Sanders, which is a good note to end on here. More tomorrow! And start thinking about the next debate in Nevada. It should be a bloodbath.
Update: The fight for Nevada has begun, and Bernie’s already taken a hard punch from the powerful Culinary Union there:
NEW: In a new flyer, @Culinary226 warns members that @BernieSanders would "end" their much-loved union health care. The union has not announced whether it will endorse, but the flyer appears to be part of a coordinated campaign ahead of the caucus. https://t.co/jCdAbjHfyd
— Megan Messerly (@meganmesserly) February 12, 2020
Who’s mobilizing labor against Bernie? One wonders if the hidden hand of Harry Reid is at work here, pulling strings on behalf of the Democratic establishment to try to stop Sanders before his momentum is unstoppable.
Update: It’s Bernie’s night, says NBC:
NBC News projects that Bernie Sanders has won the New Hampshire primary
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) February 12, 2020
ABC’s decision desk is also now projecting for Bernie.
Update: Skelley was right about turnout. With 83 percent reporting Democrats are over 250,000 total votes, which is on par with total turnout in the 2016 primary. They’re about 35,000 votes away from matching 2008 turnout. An important caveat, though: Both of those primaries came in years in which there was a competitive Republican primary too. That gave right-leaning independents in New Hampshire an incentive to vote in the GOP primary those years. There was no such incentive this year, which freed them up to cross over and vote in the Democrats’ election. So maybe big turnout isn’t quite as impressive as it seems at first blush.
Update: Hoo boy. With 80 percent in, Bernie’s lead is down to about 1.6 points.
Update: There’s truth to this:
That’s counterintuitive because the rap on Bernie in 2016 was that he was “the white candidate,” the guy who could clean up in lily-white states like New Hampshire but then get decimated in states with large black or Latino populations who preferred Hillary. Apart from Biden, though, there’s no candidate this year like Clinton with strong appeal to minority constituents. If anything, Bernie himself has more cross-racial appeal than most of the field, including and especially his two centrist challengers tonight, Buttigieg and Klobuchar. They’re “white candidates” more than he is, and Nevada is likely to prove it. Which means Klomentum is apt to be short-lived.
Update: Bernie’s lead is still a smidge under two points with 76 percent reporting. The final RCP average of New Hampshire had him winning by 7.6 points. If not for Klomentum (or, as some are calling it, the “Klobucharge”) tonight, Buttigieg may well have pulled this upset.
Update: With almost 74 percent in, Decision Desk has Bernie’s lead over Buttigieg slipping slightly under two points, with Sanders now a hair under 26 percent. It looks like he’ll win but there’s a chance he takes no more than a quarter of the electorate.
Update: FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley notes that Dems are on pace for a good night in terms of turnout, which will calm some of their jitters after Iowa: “Looking at places that are 100 percent reporting and comparing their turnout in 2008 and 2016, the 2020 Democratic primary is now only 1 percent behind turnout in 2008 and is about 14 percent ahead of the 2016 primary.”
Update: Keeping an eye on the Decision Desk results and, with two-thirds of precincts reporting, Bernie’s lead over Buttigieg is now down to about two points. Hmmm!
Update: This is a fair assessment of where Bernie’s at after tonight. No one’s impressed by a primary win when the winning share is 27 percent, especially when the same guy did twice as well against the eventual nominee in New Hampshire four years ago. But:
Sanders is winning, but not by the kind of numbers that will convince reluctant Dems to join the bandwagon.
Advantages he DOES have: Gigantic organization, credibility with labor (which Pete does NOT have), strength with non-white voters (which Amy and Pete do not have).
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) February 12, 2020
And another advantage: Bernie has his “lane” mostly to himself now. Not so the centrists.
Update: I think it was a mistake for Biden to announce this morning that he’d leave New Hampshire while voting was going on, since it gave fencesitters a reason to prefer Buttigieg or Klobuchar. But watching this clip I can see why he did it. He wanted some sort of triumphant appearance tonight, not a funereal concession. South Carolina made that easy for him.
Update: Good point by Josh Kraushaar. The GOP’s 2016 format allowed Trump to pile up an insurmountable lead. The Democrats’ 2020 format is different.
I'm repeating myself, but the biggest difference between the 2016 Rs and the 2020 Ds is that there's no winner-take-all in the Dem race.
Gives Dems more time to consolidate behind a Sanders alternative, even after Super Tuesday.
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) February 12, 2020
Update: Decision Desk HQ is way ahead of the other outlets in tabulating results and has the race tightening — slightly — with 58 percent reporting. It’s Bernie at 26 percent, Buttigieg at 23.5, and Klobuchar at 20.
Update: “Well I thought I’d support him, but I just don’t think he’s got what it takes anymore.”
Update: At 9:13 ET, with 46 percent reporting, Dave Wasserman is ready to make a call:
I've seen enough. Projection: Bernie Sanders wins the NH Democratic primary.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) February 12, 2020
Update: Okay, this is bizarre. The report of Steyer dropping out appears to be untrue:
I just called Steyer's team, this isn't true. Steyer is not dropping out https://t.co/NabNLOuc1J
— Zach Montellaro (@ZachMontellaro) February 12, 2020
Makes sense — like I say, he’s well positioned in South Carolina. How the hell did this phony report of him quitting get going?
Update: Dave Wasserman is now projecting that Klobuchar won’t catch Sanders or Buttigieg for second. It’s a two-man race.
Update: Tulsi Gabbard is telling supporters she’ll go on to South Carolina. Lord knows why. This is surprising, though:
Steyer’s spent a bundle in South Carolina and is polling near 20 percent! And Biden, the frontrunner, may be about to collapse. Why would he bail now instead of taking a shot there?
There’s a five-alarm fire for Joe Biden in the exit polls.
The base of his campaign is electability. And among electability voters in NH, who should be Biden’s core constituency, the former vice president is running fourth. https://t.co/bbSKcZlJXi via @business @bpolitics
— Derek Wallbank (@dwallbank) February 12, 2020
There’s no telling how poor Biden’s national polling will be next week. If he’s in third or even fourth, how does he possibly win South Carolina?
Update: A third of the vote is now in and the top three remain separated by seven points or so, with Buttigieg squarely in between Sanders and Klobuchar. An obvious what-if: What if Klobuchar had whiffed at last Friday’s debate? Clearly she’s gained a bunch of moderate votes that would have gone elsewhere. How many of them would have gone to Buttigieg? Enough to push him past Bernie tonight?
Update: Michael Bennet — who, yes, is technically running for president — is no longer running for president. Tulsi Gabbard is also likely to drop out tonight, as she spent the last several months in New Hampshire hoping to convince Republican-leaning independents to turn out for her and give her a boost. It’s not happening.
MSNBC projecting Warren and Biden will be shut out of delegates in NH.
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) February 12, 2020
Update: Here’s Yang’s farewell. When was the last time a random dude ran for president, did well enough to make most of the debates, and left the race with pretty much everyone liking him?
Andrew Yang ends his presidential campaign pic.twitter.com/NK14K7p5bS
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) February 12, 2020
Update: Bernie’s lead has held very steady at around five points over the last 45 minutes. Lots still to count but there’s more suspense about who’ll finish second than who’ll win.
Update: Twenty percent of precincts are reporting now and Warren and Biden are still in single digits. The Biden death watch will begin aggressively tomorrow but don’t overlook Warren’s failure:
These are just ugly numbers for Biden/Warren. But Biden can at least claim the state isn't racially diverse. Warren is literally from next door.
— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) February 12, 2020
Right, and Biden’s still got a shot at some sort of encouraging result in South Carolina. I think Warren might take one more shot in Nevada, but if it doesn’t happen for her in the caucus then I think she’s done. She’s not going to pull some mammoth upset in South Carolina. There’d be no point in competing there.
As for Biden, I wonder if Democratic donors will treat Klobuchar’s surge tonight as their cue to dig deep and kick in. She’s a more comfortable centrist alternative for them than Buttigieg because she’s a known quantity.
Update: At 8 p.m. ET, CNN is reporting that Andrew Yang is set to suspend his campaign. He was hoping for a slingshot effect from Iowa and New Hampshire. He’s at three percent with around 15 percent reporting tonight, not enough. Tough night for the Yang Gang, although they can take comfort in the fact that he outlasted supposed heavy hitters like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. And given the way Biden’s going tonight, he may have only barely missed outlasting Joe.
BuzzFeed has a postmortem of his campaign with some choice quotes from the man himself. “There’s also a competitive part of me too — like I can’t believe I lost to these people.”
The Daily Beast asked Yang if he’d provide his staffers with Universal Basic Income, the plan he’s proposed for America that would pay everyone $1,000 per month. Yang said he wasn’t sure his campaign had the resources, which is a fitting conclusion to the big UBI scheme.
Update: If Klobuchar does finish a strong third behind Buttigieg, complicating his attempt to consolidate the center, it’ll be the second presidential cycle in a row in which a debate seemed to materially change the course of the race in New Hampshire. In 2016 it was Chris Christie’s kill shot of a rising Marco Rubio that seemed to stop Rubio cold.
Update: With 10 percent in, Bernie leads by five points over Buttigieg, with Klobuchar less than two points behind for second. Warren and Biden are both in single digits. This could be genuinely gruesome for both, especially Joe.
The two progressive candidates, Sanders and Warren, are combining for 38 percent right now. The three moderates, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Biden, are combining for 51 percent.
Update: Hoo boy. We might be headed for a Democratic panic tomorrow over turnout.
From the results I'm seeing, turnout in NH looks a little lower or on par with 2016
— G. Elliott Morris (@gelliottmorris) February 12, 2020
Update: Verrrrry early, but Dave Wasserman is watching the numbers and is always worth paying attention to:
First Concord, NH precinct to report (state capital):
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) February 12, 2020
Breaking: the Amy Klobuchar NH surge is real.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) February 12, 2020
Remember that Klomentum isn’t a bad result for Bernie. To the contrary, keeping centrists divided among alternatives for as long as possible is important to his chances. In fact, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model, a second-place finish for Klobuchar tonight would maximize Sanders’s chances at the nomination.
I mean, you never know with these people. I’m cautiously optimistic that New Hampshire Democrats can execute a straightforward “Who’s your first choice for president?” ballot count with reasonable accuracy in the span of a few hours.
Either way, it’s Bernie’s race to lose. Last week, in the first flush of news that Buttigieg had overperformed in Iowa, Mayor Pete got a bounce in one tracking poll of New Hampshire that pushed him into the lead by a point for a single day. Then came Friday night’s debate, when Amy Klobuchar landed a few haymakers that pulled him back towards the pack and vaulted Klobuchar herself past Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden into third place. The last few polls of the state have been notably consistent: Bernie’s approaching 30 percent of the vote and leads by seven or eight points, with Buttigieg in the low 20s and Klobuchar possibly in the mid-teens. They’ll probably finish in that order tonight — especially since Klobuchar may benefit from Joe Biden’s odd decision to bug out and head to South Carolina before voting is finished in New Hampshire today. Any centrist undecideds who were torn between him and Klobuchar now have an incentive to tilt towards her, which may push her up further.
And may also push Biden down. In fact, there’s a nonzero chance that Grandpa Joe, the national frontrunner since day one, may finish in the single digits in New Hampshire this evening. If he does, the Biden 2020 death watch will dominate media coverage of the race for the rest of this week and beyond.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. New Hampshire produced one of the most momentous polling errors in modern political history not long ago, as some of you may remember. I remember 2008 well — Obama fresh off an upstart win in Iowa and suddenly dominating in polls of NH, seemingly poised to run the table and make quick work of Hillary Clinton. Here’s what the final few days of polling in that race looked like, in reverse chronological order. The actual result is on top:
You don’t see an 11-point miss in the polling average very often. That’s about what it would take to deny Bernie a win — but like I say, Biden’s early departure from the state adds an element of unpredictability tonight. If thousands and thousands of New Hampshire Dems who were planning to vote for Joe now switch to Pete or Amy at the last moment, it’s anyone’s guess how this shakes out. Klobuchar’s probably too far back to catch Bernie. Is Buttigieg?
There’s another element of unpredictability tonight. That’s the semi-open nature of New Hampshire’s primary, which allows independents to vote in either party’s election. Any Republican-leaning indie in NH who wants to try to influence the Democratic nomination is free to do so. The question is whether they’ll be mischievous about it, attempting to boost the weakest general-election candidate in the name of clearing Trump’s path to reelection, or if they’ll be earnest about it, attempting to boost an electable centrist in the name of stopping Bernie’s socialist revolution from advancing. There’ll be some of both at the polls tonight. Maybe they cancel each other out, with the first group breaking for Bernie and the second breaking for Buttigieg and Klobuchar. But if there’s more of one than the other, the expected results may change meaningfully.
For the four non-Bernie candidates, tonight’s calculus is simple: Finish as strongly as you can and don’t worry about where everyone else finishes. The centrist lane will be a muddle for awhile no matter what happens (unless Biden comes out of nowhere to finish first or second, which is hiiiiighly unlikely) and the progressive lane will be a muddle *at best*, if Warren finishes surprisingly well. Her campaign is talking tough, promising a long race…
Behind the scenes, Warren advisers are girding for a long, drawn-out fight for the nomination. Three sources close to Warren’s campaign say that her path forward is a version of slow-and-steady wins the race. If Warren can stay in a consistent second or third place while her opponents rise and fall, especially in big states like California and Texas, then she can accumulate delegates heading into the convention without necessarily racking up big first-place victories, the thinking goes. Hanging out in second place also lets the front-runners beat each other up, while she stays above the fray.
The campaign believes it is well-positioned for a long national fight, having already dispatched more than 1,000 staffers across 31 states, with 80% focused on grassroots organizing, according to a January memo from campaign manager Roger Lau. Unlike some of her rivals, who have been laser-focused on Iowa and New Hampshire, Warren has always taken the long view when it comes to a national campaign. “We have the delegate strategy,” says communications director Kristen Orthman. “Which is how you win a nomination.”
…but it’s impossible to believe she’ll hang around if she finishes fourth or worse tonight and in Nevada and South Carolina. Even if she succeeds in pulling off a string of third-place finishes, she’s all but guaranteed to still finish behind Bernie in those races. How does she end up with the nomination if she’s third in delegates at a contested convention? If the idea is for her to be a compromise candidate between a socialist wing of the party that backs Sanders and a centrist wing that backs Buttigieg or Bloomberg or whoever, it seems to me it’s more likely we’d get a unity ticket comprised of Sanders and the moderate challenger than the nomination of someone like Warren whom voters in either wing didn’t much like.
As for Bernie, what he wants from tonight is slightly more complicated — a victory, of course, but ideally also a photo finish between Buttigieg and Klobuchar to keep both of them in the race followed by Biden far behind. The longer the centrist vote remains splintered, the better for Sanders. I think he’d prefer that Warren finish fifth since that might force her out of the race sooner, freeing up her voters to switch to him. Normally we’d expect New Hampshire to clarify which candidate or candidates have a credible shot at the nomination but tonight may create a giant muddle, particularly if Bernie underperforms. And particularly since Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg are about to become factors in the 48 states yet to vote.
Polls close at 7 p.m. ET in some parts of the state and at 8 p.m. in the rest. Updates will follow at the top of the page. One more very important number to bear in mind tonight: Turnout. Democrats were expecting blowout turnout in Iowa, possibly exceeding even the blockbuster showing of the 2008 caucus, but they didn’t get it. That’s made them nervous since they’re counting on intense enthusiasm among their base to beat Trump this fall and figured they’d see hard evidence of it on caucus night. If turnout disappoints tonight too, they’re going to start panicking that the great anti-Trump wave they’re counting on in November might not materialize after all. Turnout in the 2016 Democratic NH primary was a shade over 250,000; turnout in the 2008 NH Democratic primary, the Obama/Clinton death match, was a hair over 284,000. Those are the benchmarks for tonight.
I’ll leave you with this, from the early exit polls. Hoo boy. Not good for Bernie, also not good for the party.
NBC exit poll: 11% of voters 18-29 in New Hampshire (was 19% in 2016).
(corrected from earlier)
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) February 11, 2020
Could it be that there’s a big crossover Republican vote, pushing down the total share of liberals/young voters?
Lotta late deciders too. Maybe the odds of another massive polling miss in NH are lower than I thought.
Why might Klobuchar do better than expected tonight?
A whopping 48% of voters said they made up their mind in the past few days (up from 25% in 2016, 38% in 2008), per NBC News exits.
And 32% said the debate was an "important" factor in their decision, 16% said "most important"
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) February 11, 2020