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Chris Cillizza’s winners and losers in the New Hampshire primary

The New Hampshire primary is now behind us — and the 2020 field leaves the Granite State smaller than it entered, with Andrew Yang and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet ending their campaigns on Tuesday night after polls closed.

Below the best (and worst) from the night that was.


* Bernie Sanders: The Vermont democratic socialist is the new front-runner for the Democratic nomination. That is the reality the Democratic Party will wake up to post-New Hampshire. Now, to be clear, neither Iowa nor New Hampshire are broadly indicative of the Democratic Party nationally — which means that things can and will change once Nevada, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states begin to vote. But as of today, there’s simply no way to put anyone other than Sanders in the pole position. Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa (but lost the delegate count narrowly) and won a state everyone said he had to win in New Hampshire. He raised $25 million in January alone — and there is no reason to believe his massive online fundraising base is going anywhere. And exit polling in New Hampshire shows that a clear majority of the state’s primary voters support a government-run health care system and free tuition at public colleges — two centerpieces of Sanders’ campaign. Sanders, no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months, now seems as though he is going to be right there all the way through this nomination fight.

* Pete Buttigieg: Yes, I know about all of the former South Bend mayor’s demonstrated struggles to date with minority voters. But trust me that Buttigieg and his team are absolutely thrilled to get to the point in this race where they have to start convincing voters in Nevada, South Carolina, Super Tuesday and beyond that his candidacy can speak to and for them. A former mayor of a town of 100,000 people has now finished first or second in the first two votes of the 2020 primary race. That’s stunning. In their wildest dreams, the Buttigieg folks couldn’t have imagined a much better first eight days of voting. If past is prologue, Buttigieg should get some momentum boost in Nevada and South Carolina. The real question is how big that bump is — and whether Buttigieg can build on it over the next 11 days.

* Amy Klobuchar: The Minnesota senator got the moment she has been waiting for since the start of the race on Tuesday night in New Hampshire. Not only did she finish in the top three, which was something of a surprise, but she was far closer to the top two than fourth and fifth. How? Because she closed extremely strongly with an electorate in which half — HALF — of the people said they made up their mind in the “last few days,” according to exit polls. As important: Klobuchar found a message — a return to empathy — in her closing argument in last Friday’s debate that has the real potential to continue to fuel her rise.

* Debates: For all of the people who scoff at debates (There’s too many of them! They don’t matter! Etc.), well, here’s a number for you: 50%. That’s the total, according to exits, of people who said the debate last Friday night in New Hampshire was either “the most important factor” (15%) or “an important factor” (36%) in deciding which candidate to vote for. Which means you better circle February 19 and February 25 on your calendars. That’s when the ninth debate in Las Vegas and the 10th debate in Charleston are scheduled.

* New Hampshire: Good job, Granite State. The votes came in at a reasonable pace. There were no major issues with the vote tallies. Is that a relatively low bar? You bet it is! And New Hampshire can thank Iowa for that incredibly low bar.

* Donald Trump: The President’s dream scenario is a drawn-out, nasty fight that goes all the way to the national convention this summer. And that scenario got more likely on Tuesday night — with the field of candidates likely to stay in the race for weeks or months to come growing (Klobuchar is now in the mix, along with Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, Warren and Michael Bloomberg). Trump, meanwhile, continues to run largely unopposed for the GOP nod — collecting huge sums of cash and voter data along the way.

* Andrew Yang: How can I name a guy who ended his campaign Tuesday night a winner? Because Yang went from absolutely nowhere to a relevant player in the race even if he could never break into the first or second tier. How did he do it? By running a forward-looking, positive campaign on his own terms. No one in the race had more fun. No one was more him (or her)self. And my strong sense is that Yang isn’t done with this politics thing.


* Joe Biden: When the former vice president left New Hampshire prior to the polls closing in the state on Tuesday, you knew things were going to be bad. But it’s hard to imagine even the most pessimistic Biden backers could have envisioned what happened — what looks like a fifth-place finish (and a total of zero delegates out of the state). That reality, coupled with Biden’s fourth place in Iowa last week, is a stunning rejection of the race’s longtime front-runner and the man who stood side-by-side with Barack Obama for eight years. It also means that Biden has run for president three times (1988, 2008 and 2020) and still has never won a single primary or caucus. Biden has insisted he will go on to Nevada’s caucuses on February 22 and the South Carolina primary on February 29, where the electorate is much more diverse than in Iowa and New Hampshire. Sure. But momentum matters. And money follows momentum. Biden is absolutely dead in the water on both fronts.

* Elizabeth Warren: Don’t forget that when the 2020 campaign began to form, Sanders and Warren were seen as the two front-runners in New Hampshire due to their regional connection to the state. It’s a pretty long fall from there to where Warren finished on Tuesday night — solidly in fourth place and with zero delegates. The Massachusetts senator spoke very early in the night, sensing that she needed to put this race behind her as soon as possible. But unlike even Biden, who can still cling to polling — conducted before New Hampshire and Iowa — that suggests he is very much in the mix in Nevada and South Carolina, Warren was depending heavily on a strong performance in these first two states. She didn’t get even one. Warren pledged Tuesday night to continue on in the race. But the path is tough.

* Iowa: New Hampshire’s competence makes the Iowa caucus debacle last week look even worse — if that was even possible. While four years is a very long time, it’s getting harder and harder for me to imagine that Iowa a) will have a caucus or b) will keep its coveted first-vote status come 2024.

* Twitter: Journalists and political types are on Twitter all the time. Given that, it’s easy for those groups to believe the conversation on Twitter is the conversation. It is not. Just 1 in 10 New Hampshire primary voters said they were regular Twitter users — numbers consistent with what we had in the Iowa exit poll. Just for kicks, Sanders was the clear favorite (31%) of regular Twitter users, followed by Buttigieg (19%) and Warren (15%).

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