NEW HAMPSHIRE—More than 400 attendees packed the South Church in Portsmouth to see Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) the day after a chaotic night of caucuses in Iowa. As candidates launched their final efforts in the first-in-the-nation primary, there were still no official results from the Hawkeye State due to a massive app malfunction.
“I think you know it was a long night in Iowa,” Klobuchar told the crowd with an exasperated laugh. “We still don’t know what the results are … But from my perspective, we had a great night last night.”
Klobuchar went on to tell the crowd that her campaign exceeded expectations: “I think the answer for all of this is that you want a president who has the presence of mind that can thrive in chaos.”
Most of the candidates for president flew to New Hampshire in the early hours Tuesday to kick off the second leg of the long slog to the Democratic nomination. But they arrived in the Granite State in politically unfamiliar territory.
For the first time in 20 years, Dems head into New Hampshire with the same number of candidates they had in Iowa. Additionally, candidates who made very little effort in Iowa will now attempt to claw into the primary mix. Of the massive 11-candidate field, all but billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer will be making all-in efforts for the first primary.
Deprived of the potentially illuminating Iowa results, candidates were quick to patch together their own spins.
In Keene, a progressive hotbed that gave Bernie Sanders over 70% of the vote in 2016, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said that she was well situated in what had become a three-candidate race for the nomination.
“We came out of Iowa knowing it’s a tight, three-way race at the top, and that the three of us—Buttigieg, Bernie, and I—will divide up most of the delegates,” Warren told reporters Tuesday. (Until a bulk of the Iowa results were released Tuesday night, candidates used internal numbers to project how they fared.)
Pete Buttigieg (D-IN), who had all but declared outright victory in Iowa, said at a campaign stop in Concord that the results “represent an astonishing victory for our movement.”
Buttigieg narrowly leads Sanders, followed by Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Klobuchar, with 71% of the Iowa vote reported as of this writing.
Biden is the only major candidate mostly ignoring the results. If the reporting and limited numbers hold true, Biden had a disastrous showing on Monday night, hovering around 15% of the delegate total and narrowly ahead of the underdog Klobuchar.
“There’s nothing to come back from yet,” Biden told a crowd in Concord.
Biden’s likely failure in Iowa simultaneously gives his top opponents momentum and thrusts the nominating process into a state of confusion.
For Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren, the clearest path to victory was to notch a series of wins through Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, with hopes of a damaged Biden losing his support in his stronghold of southern states.
Despite the fact that Buttigieg or Sanders will win Iowa and Biden’s defeat, the confusion and skepticism of those wins and losses will likely dull any mass reaction to the nation’s first contest of 2020.
But now they’re on to New Hampshire, where the process will start anew, and nobody, even the voters, know which way the Granite State will go.
“I’m still feeling it out,” said Pat Spalding, a lifelong New Hampshire resident who attended Klobuchar’s rally in Portsmouth. “I’m having a lot of difficulty deciding [who to vote for].”
Spalding said she is a progressive whose biggest issues are health care and the environment. She likes Sanders, but is nervous about his age and electability.
“I have leftist inclinations,” she said. “We don’t need to go centrist anymore.”
Despite the chaos and frustration of the process, people on the ground don’t seem to have lost sight of the upcoming primary’s significance.
“I feel like people my age are losing faith,” Derek Capri, a 22-year-old Sanders volunteer, told me at an event in Manchester. “ This is our last chance to prove that democracy matters.”
This article was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Manchester Divided coverage of political activity around New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary. Follow our coverage @BINJreports on Twitter and at binjonline.org/manchesterdivided, and if you want to see more citizens agenda-driven reporting you can contribute at givetobinj.org.