MANCHESTER, N.H. (NEXSTAR) — After the chaos that followed the Iowa caucuses, the top Democrats look to gain an edge in New Hampshire, as the nation’s first primary is in full swing. But, if the early voting is any indication, the Granite State may be adding to the confusion at the top.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is not even on the ballot, won the votes of a tiny New Hampshire community that barely hung onto its tradition of being among the first to make their picks in the presidential primary.
Dixville Notch’s five residents cast their ballots just after the stroke of midnight Tuesday in the first 2020 presidential primary vote in the nation.
Bloomberg received three write-in votes, one from a Republican and two from Democrats. The remaining votes went to Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders.
While Sanders marches forward, moderates are struggling to unite behind a candidate. After essentially tying with Sanders for first place in Iowa, Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, begins his day as the centrist front-runner. But Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is mounting a spirited bid for the same voters.
And former Vice President Joe Biden is essentially ceding the state, traveling to South Carolina later Tuesday as he bets his candidacy on a strong showing there later this month boosted by support from black voters.
During the final day of campaigning, many voters said they were still struggling to make a choice. Betty-Joy Roy, a 64-year-old director of activities at an assisted living facility in Manchester, said she only decided on Monday to vote for Sanders.
“I’m sick of politics as we know it, and I’m ready for someone who can do something,” she said. “It was between him and Biden. I was having a hard time but I think we need a change.”
Democrats will be closely monitoring how many people show up to participate in Tuesday’s contest. New Hampshire’s secretary of state predicated record-high turnout, but if that fails to materialize, Democrats will confront the prospect of waning enthusiasm following a weak showing in Iowa last week and Trump’s rising poll numbers.
Trump, campaigning in New Hampshire on 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.”
Biden — and the Democratic Party’s establishment wing — may have the most to lose on Tuesday should the former two-term vice president underperform in a second consecutive primary election. Biden has earned the overwhelming share of endorsements from elected officials across the nation as party leaders seek a relatively “safe” nominee to run against Trump.
“We plan to be competitive, but the reality is we always said this was going to be a fight. We have to let this full process play out,” Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders said. “Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, we plan to move forward.”
The stakes were dire for Warren as well in a contest set just next door to her Massachusetts home. She has positioned herself as a mainstream alternative to Bernie Sanders but is suddenly looking up at him and Buttigieg as Klobuchar fights to peel away female support.
Buttigieg, young and with no governing experience beyond the mayor’s office, is trying to emerge as the leading Biden alternative for his party’s moderate wing. His team —- with 75 paid staffers, 15 campaign offices scattered across 10 counties and roughly 300 trained volunteers leaders heading the get-out-the-vote teams — has added volunteers since Iowa, aides said.
Buttigieg has aggressively courted moderate Democrats, independents and what he calls “future former Republicans” as he tries to cobble together a winning coalition, just as he did in Iowa, where he finished in a near tie with Sanders for the lead.
Kim Holman was one of 1,800 people who crowded into, and spilled out of, Elm Street Junior High School’s gym in Nashua over the weekend. She calls herself “super torn.”
“I’m still kind of on the fence. I love Pete’s energy and his passion,” the 52-year-old personal trainer said. “It does make me a little nervous he’s so new to politics.”
Sanders has been one of the only candidates to explicitly predict victory in New Hampshire, where he defeated Hillary Clinton by more than 20 percentage points four years ago.
Sanders spent the eve of the primary courting his most passionate supporters, young voters, at two college campuses. At a Monday night rally at an arena on the University of New Hampshire campus, a band pumped up the crowd with a cover of The Who’s “My Generation,” before Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading figure among young progressives, took the stage. The band The Strokes closed out the night before the audience of thousands.
After New Hampshire, the political spotlight shifts to Nevada, where Democrats will hold caucuses on Feb. 22. But several candidates, including Warren and Sanders, plan to visit states in the coming days that vote on Super Tuesday, signaling they are in the race for the long haul.