With 97% of the state's 301 voter precincts tallied, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was leading the New Hampshire Democratic primary with a little under 26% of the vote, closely trailed by Pete Buttigieg with around 24%.
Benefitting from a recent surge of momentum and status as an appealing centrist alternative to her white male counterparts, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was holding steady in third place with just under 20%.
This according to results from CNN.
"Let me take the opportunity to thank the people of New Hampshire for a great victory tonight," Sanders told his campaign rally in Manchester.
"And let me say tonight that this victory here is the beginning of the end to Donald Trump," he added to a cheering crowd.
Out of the coveted top three spots was Sanders' fellow progressive, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who throughout the night has found herself with just over 9%. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who left the state early to focus on later primaries, captured just over 8%.
No other Democrat on the ballot broke 4%. Two of them, Andrew Yang and Michael Bennet, suspended their campaigns not long into the tallying process.
After the chaotic and messy Iowa caucuses, in which the results remained in dispute even days after the tally was to be done, the Democratic Party was hoping for a straightforward and clear outcome Tuesday in New Hampshire – the first primary vote of the 2020 election cycle.
Candidates, under pressure to do well in the Granite State after an indecisive Iowa caucus plagued by a balky reporting app and inconsistent tallies, spent the better part of a week barnstorming across New Hampshire, jockeying for position and hoping to finish in the top three.
New Hampshire has only 24 delegates, a fraction of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the party nod on the first ballot at the Dems' summer convention. But the momentum this early contest promises is viewed by the various campaigns as far more valuable than that fraction might suggest. (As a side note: Those with less than 15% get none of the delegates in New Hampshire, which are awarded proportionately to those who exceed that threshhold. This means Biden and Warren will score none.)
Going into Tuesday's vote, fiery progressive and self-declared democratic socialist Sanders was fighting for Democratic front-runner status, while the party hoped the New Hampshire primary would at least bring some clarity to a presidential nomination fight that has so far been marred by dysfunction and doubt.
As Sanders predicted victory, former Midwestern Mayor Buttigieg went looking to seize the backing of his party's establishment with a strong finish.
"I congratulate him on his strong showing tonight," Buttigieg said of Sanders at a campaign gathering Tuesday night in Nashua, according to C-Span coverage.
And the Democratic Party as a whole? It has been hoping that with the settling of dust in New Hampshire, there'd be a meaningful culling of its unwieldy 2020 class, which still features nearly a dozen candidates battling for the chance to take on President Donald Trump in this fall's general election.
Adding to the urgency of that quest for clarity: Tuesday's contest came just eight days after Iowa caucuses, marred by balky reporting apps, late tallies and inconsistent figures, injected chaos into the race and failed to report a clear winner.
For Sanders, the New Hampshire primary was an opportunity to build on his dominance of the party's left flank. A repeat of his strong showing in Iowa – he finished a super-close second to Buttigieg – could severely damage progressive rival arren, who faced the prospect of an embarrassing defeat in a state that borders her home of Massachusetts.
For their part, moderates went into the Granite State contest still struggling to unite behind a candidate to compete against the far-left Sanders.
For months, polls had Biden, Barack Obama's VP for eight years, well ahead of the pack. But he came in a grim fourth place in Iowa. Having already predicted he would "take a hit" in New Hampshire, he basically ceded the state and pressed on to South Carolina Tuesday, in hopes he'd fare better there later this month with a more diverse electorate and a larger contingent of black voters.
In short, more than a year after Democrats began announcing their presidential candidacies, the party has been struggling to coalesce behind a message or a messenger in its desperate quest to defeat Trump. That raised the stakes of the New Hampshire primary as voters weighed whether candidates were too liberal, too moderate or too inexperienced — vulnerabilities that could play to Trump's advantage in the fall.
Trump, campaigning in New Hampshire Monday night, sought to inject chaos in the process. The Republican president suggested that conservative-leaning voters could affect the state's Democratic primary results, though only registered Democrats and voters not registered with either party can participate in New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary.
“I hear a lot of Republicans tomorrow will vote for the weakest candidate possible of the Democrats,” Trump said Monday. “My only problem is I’m trying to figure out who is their weakest candidate. I think they’re all weak.”
Trump also attacked Mike Bloomberg, who was showing signs of strength in polling around the country but wasn't on the New Hampshire ballot.
The president highlighted Bloomberg's comments during a 2015 appearance at the Aspen Institute in which he said the way to bring down murder rates was to "put a lot of cops" in minority neighborhoods because that's where "all the crime is."
Trump also reveled in Warren's less-than-stellar showing, trolling "Pocahantas" on Twitter for "having a really bad night."
The stakes were dire for Warren in a contest set just next door to her Massachusetts home. She has positioned herself as a mainstream alternative to Sanders but the results so far seemed to put a dent in that thinking.
Warren released an afternoon memo seeking to downplay New Hampshire's results. Campaign manager Roger Lau outlined a “path to victory” through 30-plus states where the campaign has paid staff on the ground as he highlighted alleged weaknesses in Warren's Democratic rivals.
As for Klobuchar's surge, several media outlets looked to explain it in terms of providing more mainstream appeal than some of her rivals.
Vox, for example, had this to say: "Like Buttigieg and Biden, Klobuchar has positioned herself as a moderate. On the debate stage, she has emphasized practicality, party unity, and a uniquely Midwestern case for electability: She's mentioned repeatedly that she's one of the only candidates who’s never lost a race — and that she outperformed Hillary Clinton in multiple Minnesota counties in 2016.
By framing her candidacy in this way, Klobuchar is targeting voters who may still be making up their minds — including some who are searching for a moderate alternative to the white male frontrunners."
Fending off attacks from candidates on all sides in the days leading up to New Hampshire was Buttigieg, who came out with the most delegates in Iowa. Biden stepped up his criticisms by focusing on Buttigieg's lack of experience on the national and global stage, and harping on reports of his difficulties connecting with African-American voters.
Sanders, meanwhile, has derided the young politico for taking donations from Big Pharma.
In one notable exchange of fire, Buttigieg found himself pushing back on Joe Biden's blast that he is no "Barack Obama."
In an interview with CNN's "State of the Union," Buttigieg said the dissimilarity is the entire point.
"I'm not, and neither is he," he said of the Biden comment. "Neither is any of us running for president. This isn't 2008. It's 2020. And we are in a new moment calling for a different kind of leadership."
As for Sanders, his opponents have challenged his electability as a democratic socialist. And Buttigieg has assailed his Medicare-for-all plan as unworkable.
Newsmax's Eric Mack and Greg Richter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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