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N.H. voters get their say in frenetic Democratic race

Scenes from around New Hampshire on Tuesday night during the Democratic primary.
Scenes from around New Hampshire on Tuesday night during the Democratic primary.Globe Staff photos

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders scored a narrow victory in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, fending off strong showings by former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar in a result that did little to clarify the journey to the Democratic presidential nomination.

Senator Elizabeth Warren from next-door Massachusetts suffered a stinging loss, with just 9 percent of the vote, and former vice president Joe Biden, once considered the field’s front-runner, won just 8 percent.

Sanders, who cruised to a victory in New Hampshire by 22 points in 2016, managed to win this time by positioning himself as an unwavering voice for a "political revolution'' who can leverage his grass-roots-funded movement to beat Trump. His strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire mark an unlikely comeback for a candidate who suffered a heart attack in October and faces opposition from many in the Democratic establishment.

“This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” Sanders told his fired-up supporters Tuesday night as they chanted “Bernie Beats Trump.” Striking a unifying note, Sanders expressed his “appreciation” for all of the other Democratic candidates. “No matter who wins — and we certainly hope it’s going to be us — we are going to unite together,” he said.

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Sanders speaks to New Hampshire after primary victory
"Let me take this opportunity to thank the people of New Hampshire for a great victory tonight." (Video: Anush Elbakyan|Globe Staff, Photo: Jessica Rinaldi|Globe Staff)

Buttigieg, addressing his supporters earlier Tuesday night, said, "We go forward knowing this is our chance, our only chance — not just to end the era of Donald Trump, but to launch the era we know must come next. Here in a state that goes by the motto ‘Live free or die,’ you made up your own minds. And thanks to you, a campaign that some said shouldn’t be here at all has shown that we are here to stay.”

Pete Buttigieg speaks in Nashua after primary
Pete Buttigieg speaks in Nashua after primary on Tuesday Feb. 11, 2020. (Video by Shelby Lum|Globe Staff, Photo by Erin Clark|Globe Staff)

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Sanders heads to the next contest in Nevada with significant momentum, as several national polls have shown him pulling ahead of Biden, who fled New Hampshire on Tuesday to rally supporters in South Carolina. Biden considers South Carolina a stronghold due to his support from Black voters there.

“We just heard from the first two states,” Biden said at an event from Columbia, S.C., which was live-streamed into his low-key New Hampshire Election Night party of campaign volunteers, staffers, and diehard supporters at a Radisson in Nashua. “Where I come from that’s the opening bell — not the closing bell.”

Biden pointed out that the vast majority of Black and Latino voters have not yet had their say. “We’re not going to let anyone take this election away from you,” he said to cheers.

Joe Biden speaks in South Carolina
Joe Biden skips election night in New Hampshire, speaks to crowd in South Carolina instead. (Video: Handout, Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)

Buttigieg and Sanders— the youngest and oldest candidates in the race — trained much of their fire at each other in the final, hectic days of campaigning. Sanders repeatedly reminded his fired-up crowds about the “billionaires” backing Buttigieg, and suggested the former mayor is “naïve” to say that those contributions won’t influence his decision making in office. Buttigieg, 38, who also attracted large and enthusiastic crowds in the state, painted Sanders as “alienating” to some voters and a risky choice due to his expensive policy proposals.

Warren, who likely did not win a single delegate from her neighboring state, appeared to castigate the tussling between Buttigieg and Sanders while addressing her supporters early in the evening on Tuesday. She slammed “harsh tactics” in the race that work only for people who are “willing to burn down the rest of the party in order to be the last man standing.” Warren vowed to carry on the fight for the “long haul” and pitched herself as the candidate who can unify the two factions of the party.

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Warren remains hopeful despite N.H. results
"We win when we come together," says Warren. (Video: Caitlin Healy|Globe Staff, Photo: Matthew J. Lee|Globe Staff)

But it was Klobuchar who arguably had the most surprising finish of the night. “We have beaten the odds every step of the way,” a jubilant Klobuchar said to her supporters Tuesday evening after surging from a fifth-place finish in Iowa to a top three finish in New Hampshire. “Because of you, we are taking this campaign to Nevada. We are going to South Carolina!”


Amy Klobuchar celebrates strong New Hampshire showing
"I'm Amy Klobuchar, and I will beat Donald Trump." (Video: Handout, Photo: John Tlumacki|Globe Staff)

Meanwhile, Trump won the New Hampshire’s Republican primary handily, besting former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld.

The results in the Democratic primary were the latest turn in the so-far chaotic race for the nomination. The Iowa caucuses delivered a split decision, with Buttigieg appearing to win the state delegate race while Sanders locked down more of the popular vote. Both candidates have requested a partial recount there, after delays and glitches marred the process and overshadowed the first days of campaigning in New Hampshire.

Sanders’ New Hampshire victory, with Buttigieg and Klobuchar splitting the remaining vote, makes the Midwestern challenges to his candidacy less potent. Neither Buttigieg nor Klobuchar enjoy much national support or backing from nonwhite voters, making their paths harder to chart as they court more diverse electorates in Nevada and South Carolina in the coming weeks.

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But the results also suggest potential troubles for Sanders ahead if more moderate voters are able to coalesce around one alternative, whether that be Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who’s skipped the first four states but has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into advertising. Bloomberg has risen to third place in national polls, raising the possibility that he and Sanders could face off for the nomination if Biden continues to slide.

Sanders also won far fewer voters this time compared to when he ran against Hillary Clinton four years ago, raising questions about his frequent vow to bring hordes of new people into the process, which is key to his argument for how he would beat Trump.

Sanders supporters flooded into the Southern New Hampshire University athletic complex to celebrate his victory, wearing Bernie-themed T-shirts and pins, and carrying blue-and-white Bernie signs and chowing down on hot dogs and pizza slices.

Highlights from the New Hampshire primary
Candidates reflect on a busy, first-in-the-nation primary. (Video: Globe Staff, Photo: Jessica Rinaldi|Globe Staff)

Sherri Buchanan, 56, a former Republican, said she was persuaded by her 34-year-old son to support Sanders in the primary.

“He was so radical last time, and this time around, everybody’s talking more like Bernie,” said Buchanan, a stay-at-home grandmother who lives in Concord. “So where do you go? You go right to the horse’s mouth.”

But at the Buttigieg party, there were some worries about the unsettled nature of the race going forward.

Bob Shultz, 73, of Hudson, N.H., who voted for Buttigieg and attended his Election Night party in Manchester, said he worried about the primary given that so many candidates, with widely different ideologies, are competing against each other.

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“The Democrats should not have gotten into this situation, it’s too divisive,” he said.

Two candidates for the nomination, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, suspended their campaigns Tuesday after disappointing finishes in the state.

Globe staff reporters Jess Bidgood, Stephanie Ebbert, Laura Krantz, Christina Prignano, and Jazmine Ulloa contributed to this report.


Liz Goodwin can be reached at elizabeth.goodwin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizcgoodwin