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As New Hampshire Votes, One Question Is Key

Who finishes third?
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2020 2:00 PM CST

(Newser) – New Hampshire is voting in the first primary of the 2020 season (and the traditional small-town midnight results are in). Going into the night, the most important question may be who finishes in third place, writes Domenico Montanaro at NPR. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg are expected to claim the top two spots, but the third-place spot could speak volumes about the future of the race.

  • Bernie Sanders: He's leading the state polls, and he won here easily in 2016. Anything short of a victory will be seen as a "major disappointment," per the New York Times.
  • Joe Biden: He's setting expectations for another weak finish after fourth place in Iowa. In fact, he's already left New Hampshire for South Carolina, reports Politico. At this point, third place would great news for Biden, but many previews are expecting fourth or even fifth. He will survive no matter what, but a fifth-place finish would damage hopes for a big rebound in South Carolina later this month, a Democratic strategist tells the Hill.

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  • Pete Buttigieg: He's been polling in second place steadily in New Hampshire, and a finish below that would hurt. As NPR points out, Buttigieg has struggled with minority voters, so if he doesn't do well in largely white New Hampshire, it's a bad sign.
  • Elizabeth Warren: She's on track to finish behind Sanders again, which is problematic enough for her push to conquer the party's left. A "total collapse" that leaves her below Biden and Amy Klobuchar could be crippling, per the Times.
  • Amy Klobuchar: She finished fifth in Iowa, but a strong debate performance has her rising in the polls. A third-place finish would be a big boost to her campaign, especially in terms of donations, per NPR. Lower than that suggests she can't capitalize on the momentum.
  • Tulsi Gabbard: She has "gone for broke" in New Hampshire, while scarcely campaigning anywhere else, reports BuzzFeed. Gabbard has a libertarian streak that could appeal to voters here, meaning a disappointing finish could hurt her rationale for staying in the race.
  • The rest: Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and the others are hoping for surprise surges from notoriously unpredictable New Hampshire voters.
(Read more New Hampshire primary stories.)

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