Following the absolute debacle that was the Democrats’ first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses last week, tonight offers the Democrats a shot at redemption, of sorts, with the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.
Here is what I’ll be watching for.
1. How long will we have to wait for results, this time? The first and most obvious question is not even a substantive question, but a procedural one. There is dropping the ball, there is really dropping the ball, there is really, really dropping the ball, and then there is the absolutely catastrophic dumpster fire that was the Iowa Democratic Party’s performance last week. Deep-dive essays, and perhaps full-length books, will assuredly be written that analyze just how badly the Iowa Democratic Party managed to botch its quadrennial moment in the sun. “You had one job,” as the popular meme goes. Alas, we shall see if Iowa manages to keep its first-in-the-nation status, come 2024. Hopefully in New Hampshire tonight, unlike in Iowa, we actually get results before we go to sleep.
2. Will favorite Bernie Sanders pull it off? Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the Fidel Castro-praising communist who decided to ditch possible sojourns to the Caribbean or the Pacific islands in order to (literally) honeymoon in the frigid former Soviet Union, demolished Hillary Clinton in the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. He is well-positioned to win yet again tonight, leading by an average of 7.4% in recent polling and having led the overwhelming majority of Granite State polls conducted over the past month or so. If Sanders indeed does wipe away the field tonight, then he only buttresses his status as the clear favorite for the presidential nomination. All signs currently point toward Sanders pulling it off.
3. Can Pete Buttigieg pull off the upset and start two for two? If you believe the Iowa Democratic Party’s troubled (to put it mildly) results-reporting process, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg left the Hawkeye State with the highest delegate count. He enters tonight in a clear second place position in New Hampshire, and he is the only person not named Bernie Sanders to outright lead a New Hampshire poll in nearly a month. If Buttigieg pulls off the upset tonight, he likely overtakes Sanders as the slight favorite for the nomination; after all, since the advent of the modern political party presidential nominating contest in 1972, no candidate has won his/her party’s first two nominating contests (Iowa and New Hampshire) and gone on to lose his/her party’s presidential nomination.
4. Can neighboring state Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren resuscitate her ailing campaign? New Hampshire may be a last stand, of sorts, for the troubled socialist-lite candidate from the neighboring Bay State. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) emerged toward the end of last summer and into early autumn as a frontrunner, but her campaign has all but collapsed and enters tonight’s battle as a shell of its former self. Warren desperately needs a shot in the arm tonight — at bare minimum, she cannot afford to be outpaced tonight by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
5. Could Joe Biden really get fifth place? Former Vice President Joe Biden is starting to look an awful lot like a (politically) dead man walking. He isn’t even sticking around tonight to watch New Hampshire’s full results, and polls currently show him duking it out for fourth place. The man who was the frontrunner for most of the past calendar year could easily get fifth place tonight, making his so-called South Carolina “firewall” seem less and less like an actual firewall. My best guess? Biden is out by the time South Carolina is over.