The results came in promptly in New Hampshire on Tuesday — unlike in Iowa’s caucuses last week — as voters rendered their first clear-cut verdict of 2020.
Who were the winners and losers in the Granite State?
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
It’s easy to jump past the main story on primary nights when a candidate claims an expected victory.
Sanders won. And that makes him the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, since he finished in a de facto dead-heat in Iowa with Pete Buttigieg.
Skeptics will note that Sanders’s margin on Tuesday was far smaller than it was four years ago, when he trounced eventual nominee Hillary Clinton. But the field is so different, and the number of viable candidates so much higher, that it’s hard to make a meaningful comparison.
Sanders benefits not only from beating the field on Tuesday but by the shockingly poor performance of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who finished in fourth place and with about 9 percent of the vote.
Warren’s steep decline leaves Sanders unchallenged as the progressive standard-bearer in the race.
The win also gives another boost to the Vermont senator’s already formidable fundraising operation.
Centrists may carp — and worry about Sanders’s chances in a general election — but he is now the candidate to beat.
Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg failed to pull a real surprise, losing out to Sanders by about 2 percentage points.
But that was an impressive showing for the 38-year-old former South Bend, Ind., mayor, who appears to have come out of the Granite State with the same number of delegates as Sanders — nine apiece — for the Democratic National Convention.
Sanders and Buttigieg have clearly pulled away from the rest of the field in the first two contests.
Buttigieg faces real challenges ahead. Nonwhite support has been conspicuously lacking for him, and that will be a much bigger problem in the two next states, Nevada and South Carolina.
Then it’s on to Super Tuesday, where billionaire Mike Bloomberg is waiting in the wings, and aiming directly at the centrist voters who back Buttigieg.
But those are questions for the future. Tuesday was another strong night for the former mayor.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
Klobuchar was the big surprise of the past week.
She finished fifth in Iowa but was suddenly buoyed by a strong debate performance in Manchester, N.H., on Friday evening.
Her momentum built sharply in the final days, and she drew some of the biggest crowds of her campaign.
As of midnight Tuesday, with roughly 85 percent of precincts reporting, Klobuchar had received about 20 percent of the vote — a standout performance from a candidate who has often been dismissed as an also-ran.
Klobuchar included a dry “thank you” to the “pundits” who had counted her out during her primary night speech. She also insisted that she was President Trump’s “worst nightmare” come November.
It remains very difficult to see how Klobuchar wins the nomination — like Buttigieg, she struggles with nonwhite voters.
But besting Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden in New Hampshire was a remarkable performance.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg
The avalanche of money that Bloomberg is bringing to the 2020 race is paying off in national polls.
The former New York City mayor is now up to almost 14 percent in the RealClearPolitics national polling average — good enough for third place.
Bloomberg’s decision to avoid the four early states and enter the race on Super Tuesday always left him dependent on factors beyond his control.
The good news for him? It’s falling into place so far.
Bloomberg’s only real chance has always involved Sanders emerging as the front-runner, moderates taking fright about his chances against Trump, and no one else claiming the centrist mantle.
That’s exactly what seems to be happening.
The Granite State primary went smoothly. There were no significant problems reported with voting or with the tabulation of the results.
That, in itself, marked the primary out from the fiasco that enveloped the Iowa caucuses eight days before.
“No offense, Iowa, but it's been kinda cool tonight to see who people voted for,” MSNBC anchor Brian Williams said wryly, soon after Sanders had been declared the winner late Tuesday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
A dismal night was expected for Biden — and that’s what happened.
The former vice president had already abandoned the Granite State by the evening of primary day, instead addressing supporters from Columbia, S.C.
Biden sought to put a brave face on his predicament, insisting, “It ain’t over, man. We’re just getting started.”
It might not be over, but it is getting close.
Biden has made his purported electability the central rationale of his candidacy. But he has come fourth and fifth in the first two contests. He appears to have scored about 8 percent support in New Hampshire.
Biden’s supporters insist that South Carolina, which votes on Feb. 29, can be his firewall, owing to his traditionally strong support from black voters.
But there are signs Biden’s standing with the African American community is declining.
If that happens, it’s likely game over for the former vice president.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)
Warren barely had a better night than Biden — and led him by only a single percentage point at midnight Eastern time.
What exactly has gone wrong with Warren’s campaign is not crystal clear: Has she been hurt by controversy over her views on "Medicare for All," or by sexism, or by her squabble with Sanders over whether or not he told her that a woman could not be elected president?
Whatever the root cause, she now adds a fourth place finish in New Hampshire to her third in Iowa. Like Biden, her share of the vote in the Granite State looks to be in single figures. That’s made all the worse in her case because she represents an adjoining state.
Warren and her aides insist she is in for the long haul to the convention. But, unless she pulls a major surprise and actually starts winning primaries, it’s not at all clear what her rationale would be.
Businessman Andrew Yang
Yang — and his supporting "Yang Gang" — reached the end of the road on Tuesday,
Yang dropped out of the race, having spent more than $3 million on New Hampshire advertising to get roughly 3 percent of the vote.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) also dropped out, having never got traction with his campaign.
Yang did better. He is a sizable name now, having been barely known in the political world previously. His idiosyncratic approach won its share of admiration.
But anyone who records such a bad result as to end their campaign has to be classified as a loser.