Former US Vice President Joe Biden ended up a disappointing fifth in the party election for the Democrats’ presidential nominee in the first state to hold a secret ballot, New Hampshire, where Senator Bernie Sanders emerged as the leader.
The insurgent Pete Buttigieg came second in the primary held on Tuesday and Senator Klobuchar emerged third showing a quick rise due to a strong performance in the candidates’ debate last week.
Amid questions within the party over the electability of a leftist in the national election, the New Hampshire voting showed a tilt to the centre in the state as the centrists, Buttigieg, a small town mayor, and Klobuchar, together outpolled the self-styled socialist Sanders and the left-leaning Senator Elizabeth Warren.
In the Republican Party primary, US President Donald Trump roundly trounced former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, who said he would vote in the national election for a moderate Democrat rather than for Trump
The results of the first two Democratic Party elections – an open vote called a caucus in Iowa last week and the secret ballot primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday – have muddled the initial expectations with the rise of Buttigieg, who came second in popular votes, and the fall of Biden.
But the two predominantly white states do not reflect the nation’s demographics and the national polls paint a different picture.
Establishment candidate Biden’s fifth place finish in New Hampshire followed a fourth place finish last week in Iowa, leading some to question his viability.
“Cable TV talkers, tell them ‘It ain’t over,'” he said at a rally in South Carolina, where he flew from New Hampshire without waiting for the results.
And he has justification for saying that because he is still second in national polls of Democratic Party members with 20.4 per cent support, trailing only Sanders who has 23 per cent in the aggregation of polls by RealClear Politics.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the owner of the news and financial information service that bears his name and a former New York mayor, has emerged third with 13.6 per cent, even though he has not run in the two elections so far or participated in the party’s televised debates but has blanketed the nation with ads paid for by himself.
The ad blitz has sideswiped Biden with old clips of former President Barack Obama praising Bloomberg giving the impression he is endorsing the former mayor instead of his vice president.
The small states of Iowa which is 85.3 per cent white and New Hampshire which is 90 per cent white do not reflect the US with a white population of only 60.4 per cent.
South Carolina with 63.7 per cent white population better reflects the US and the next primary scheduled there on February 29 may be a better trend indicator.
The Democratic Party draws a substantial part of its support from the non-white population and Biden is counting on the minorities to boost his performance.
He is leading the polls in South Carolina with 31 per cent support, according to the RealClear Politics aggregation.
In a surprising twist, hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer is running second with 18.5 per cent support in the state.
Sanders trails him with 17 per cent, while Buttigieg is a distant fifth with only 5.5 per cent, raising questions about how he would fare nationally.
Two other candidates, Andrew Yang, the only non-white candidate on the frontlines, and Senator Michael Bennet, who hardly registered in the polls, dropped out on Tuesday after performing poorly in New Hampshire and last week in Iowa.
The race for the party nomination has turned nasty.
Sanders has hit virtually labelled Buttigieg a frontman for the rich by repeatedly drawing attention to the “40 billionaires who have contributed to his campaign.
Buttigieg retaliated by making Sanders out to be a rigid idealogue, saying, “Vulnerable Americans do not have the luxury of pursuing ideological purity rather than an inclusive victory.”
Warren warned, “Harsh tactics might work if you’re willing to burn down the party, in order to be the last man standing.”
Winning New Hampshire may give a boost in national headlines and name recognition, but is by no means an indicator of who will be the party candidate.
Sanders trounced Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire in 2016 with 60.1 per to her 37.7 per cent in what was a straight race but it was she who prevailed in the end.
Obama lost New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton in 2008, but he won the party nomination.