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11 February 2020 20:34

Iowa caucus Joe Biden Democratic Party

CONCORD, New Hampshire — The New Hampshire primary on Tuesday could provide the Democratic race for president with some much-needed clarity after the Iowa caucuses devolved into chaos last week. It's likely no such chaos will happen in New Hampshire, which has a traditional secret-ballot primary and whose voters use paper ballots. When voters in this small New England state head to the polls on February 11 (polls close by 8 pm Eastern), they will be fighting for a portion of the state's mere 24 delegates — less than 1 percent of the pledged delegates in the Democratic nominating contest. In the RealClearPolitics polling average of New Hampshire, he's currently 7.4 points ahead of his closest competitor, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who are tied for third. Still, the rules are different this year, and by the time New Hampshire results are reported, thousands will have already started voting in the Super Tuesday states.

The senator from Vermont has maintained a hold on his neighboring state; though he's likely nowhere near repeating his 22-point win against Hillary Clinton four years ago, he has broken away as the frontrunner in the RealClearPolitics New Hampshire average, with Buttigieg in second and Biden, Warren, and Klobuchar all essentially tied for third. New Hampshire's primary could be make or break for Sanders (who won it in 2016), Warren (who, like Sanders, hails from a neighboring state), and Biden (the national frontrunner). This small New England state has a well-documented history of elevating underdogs and leveling frontrunners, and political experts here told me it's as likely to have a "dark horse" candidate surprise as it would be for the top three to finish well in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Related These New Hampshire primary voters will truly be first in the nation Candidates need to reach a 15 percent threshold in order to receive delegates, and delegates will be awarded in proportion to the percentage of the primary vote each candidate wins in each district. New Hampshire's one-person, one-vote primary — contrasted with Iowa's public caucuses — could serve as a clarifying moment after Iowa.

In the 1970s, voters in New Hampshire and Iowa decisively replaced party bosses who once got to make backroom decisions about who would be the nominee. were basically like horse races, where party bosses would see how the horses played," said University of New Hampshire political science professor and primary expert Dante Scala. New Hampshire had the highest primary turnout of any state in 2016 with 52 percent, compared to 15.7 percent for Iowa, 30 percent for South Carolina, and just 8 percent for the Nevada caucuses, according to data from the US Elections Project. Given the state's relatively small size, that still left the consequential decision of the primary up to just 542,459 people; more than the 357,983 Iowa caucus-goers and 159,216 Nevada caucus-goers, but fewer than half of the 1,118,468 voters who turned out in South Carolina. With more than 40 percent of the state's registered voters undeclared to any political party, New Hampshire is tricky to poll.

Some former presidential candidates criticized the states as being too white and rural, and a recent national poll from Monmouth University showed a majority of voters in favor of getting rid of Iowa and New Hampshire going first and replacing them with a single, national primary. As the Democratic Party becomes increasingly diverse — in 2018, an estimated 39 percent of the Democratic electorate identified as something other than white — New Hampshire is in an increasingly awkward position for playing such a large role in the presidential nominating process. It clings to the "first" status, helped by a state law that allows the New Hampshire secretary of state to set the date of the primary a week before any other state that might try to go first (a big part of the reason Iowa goes before it is that it's a caucus state). People in the Democratic Party, including some former 2020 candidates like Julián Castro, have openly questioned why two predominantly white states get to hold such power over the presidential nominating process. Still, all of the top-tier candidates — the ones with the most to gain from winning Iowa and New Hampshire — aren't rocking the boat this year, saying that Nevada and South Carolina round out the diversity the first two states lack. Scala, the UNH political expert, said he could see national Democrats more seriously contemplate a calendar change in 2024 if Iowa or New Hampshire selects a nominee who ultimately loses to Trump. — The traditional role of the early primary and caucus states is to winnow the field of presidential candidates and bestow national momentum on one or several finalists. It is reasonably likely that the top two finishers in New Hampshire will be the same as in Iowa: Mr. Sanders and Mr. Buttigieg. Tuesday night marks 100 years of New Hampshire being the first-in-the-nation primary state. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren needs a strong finish after coming in third in Iowa to Sanders and Buttigieg. Bloomberg opted to skip qualifying for the ballot in all four early-voting states in favor of focusing his time and vast fortune on the 16 primaries happening on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday. Primaries are run by state governments, while caucuses are run by political party volunteers.