NH Hot Take (9:30pm Eastern)

Some thoughts based on incomplete results.

With 51% of the vote in, the basic order is as follows:

  1. Sanders
  2. Buttigieg
  3. Klobuchar
  4. Warren
  5. Biden

Of that list only the top three are above the 15% threshold and therefore the only ones likely to get delegates.

If this holds it strikes me as a huge win for Klobuchar and huge losses for Warren and especially Biden.

Recognizing that we have just gone through two small, unrepresentative states, I am struck at Mayor Pete’s success and Biden’s especially poor showing. While Sanders winning NH does not surprise, the fact that Biden lost both races badly really undercuts his electability aura.

I am especially struck that Buttigieg and Klobuchar are having more success in the moderate lane at the moment and that Warren’s traction in the more leftward lane has yet to materialize.

Using the expectation standard, Klobuchar is a big winner and Warren and Biden are both huge losers tonight.

Biden is likely to do poorly in Nevada. He will need an epic comeback in South Carolina to show the Super Tuesday voters that his electability narrative has any truth to it. He feels a bit toasty to me at the moment.

(Again: just a passing hot take, but these are interesting results to this point).

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, US Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. steve says:

    Looks like Klobuchar is the momentum candidate now. She is the moderate candidate with experience, but not in her 70s. If this continues the concern would be that Bernie continues to win the far left votes while Buttigieg and Klobuchar split the moderates. Might allow Bernie to win.


  2. charon says:

    Anyone counting on a big boost from South Carolina is making a strategic mistake, its vote is only 3 days before Super Tuesday.

    A lot of the Super Tuesday vote is vote-by-mail or early voting, many of those votes will be cast before SC votes.

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Bernie seems to be polling strongly with African-American voters–he probably will do better in Nevada and then the SC than Mayor Pete or Klobuchar. Biden seems like toast, and I find it hard to believe that Mayor Pete can overcome his liabilities. The establishment obviously does not want Bernie to get the nomination, but if they’re going to stop him, they either have to win or sell the fix. I don’t see how that’s happening. Letting forgotten gasbags like James Carville rant about how unpopular Bernie’s platform is (free college polls over 50% approival but in Carville’s average-Joe on CNN mind it’s crazy as hell) is so weak and dumb.

  4. DrDaveT says:

    Honestly, to me Biden only seems electable if you haven’t actually seen him speak in public since 2018. He has clearly lost… something. A lot of something.

  5. DrDaveT says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The establishment obviously does not want Bernie to get the nomination

    Neither do I. I have no confidence that Bernie can beat Trump.

  6. Modulo Myself says:


    I have more confidence in Bernie than Mayor Pete or Amy Klobuchar. I like Klobuchar, but if you showed me a voter in the bleakest, whitest parts of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, or Michigan, I’m going to say Bernie is how you win. And I don’t see any Dem candidate being better at turnout in Detroit or Philly.

  7. Gustopher says:

    Biden and Warren did not do well.

    I don’t know whether Buttigieg or Klobuchar can get a national campaign moving fast enough to really compete, plus they are going to hit the states where the billionaires are spending.

    So, I dunno.

    I support Biden for VP again. The man is very Vice Presidential.

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    Bernie got 150,000 votes in 2016. Tonight he got 70,000 and barely squeaked out a win. The aggregate moderate vote (Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Biden) far outpaced the aggregate progressive vote.

    The theory of the Sanders campaign is that they’ll bring out new voters, inspired voters. And yet tonight, in his neighboring state, he’s got half what he had four years ago. Someone needs to explain to me how that’s a good sign for Bernie.

    It looks to me like voters this time around want to win. A Sanders vote in 2016 was a throwaway, no one thought he’d actually win, and everyone thought Hillary would be running against Rubio or Cruz. Now the shit is serious and half his voters disappeared.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m not sure that getting far fewer votes in a 19-way race than in a 2-way race means all that much. But, clearly, a lot of the Sanders vote in 2016 was as much anti-Hillary as rock-solid-Sanders.

  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    It was pointed out last night that Biden has been running for President for 32 years now and has never placed higher than 4th in a primary or caucus.

  11. Jen says:

    The RNC and assorted PACs will eat Sanders alive–he will not win. Remember, this is the political ad machine that had no problems whatsoever denigrating a real war hero like John Kerry. If Democrats want to win, they need to stop splitting up the vote and get behind someone who can win. I like Pete’s policies, but I think he’d be doing the party a favor if he could find a way to gracefully withdraw and keep his powder dry for another run. He’s the future of the party.

    I’d vote for Klobuchar, despite her reputation as a hothead. Biden has an air of defeat about him.

  12. Jen says:


    I don’t know whether Buttigieg or Klobuchar can get a national campaign moving fast enough

    Klobuchar is definitely behind (her campaign announced yesterday they would be opening offices in a few Super Tuesday states), but Buttigieg already has offices in Super Tuesday states, and has been campaigning in California for months. The young woman who managed the region that I live in knew weeks ago where she would be headed after NH (IIRC, it was Virginia).

  13. wr says:

    @Jen: “Remember, this is the political ad machine that had no problems whatsoever denigrating a real war hero like John Kerry”

    Exactly. Which means it’s time to stop wetting the bed over which mean things they can say about Bernie or anyone else — they’re already calling Bloomberg a racist for policies Trump endorses.

    Stop thinking about what the mean Republicans are going to say and letting them choose your candidate. They’re going to do their thing to anyone. Choose the one you believe in.

  14. Jen says:

    @wr: I know. But I’ve had enough with the “Sanders is the only one who can beat Trump” nonsense. He is going to be the easiest one to run against and defeat. Not only will the Republican ad machine go up against him, but every healthcare company PAC, every pharmaceutical PAC, higher education PAC, banking PAC…

    It’s not just Republicans who will consider him a real threat. Just about any American industry will too. The amount of money that will be spent to defeat him will be jaw-dropping.

    Most businesses would be happy to remain above the fray, but they won’t if Sanders is the nominee.

  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    A few things. Turnout has been reported to be typical for a NH primary, which brings into question Bernie’s claim that he is the candidate that will bring new voters and after a primary and a caucus, Bernie is is mired in the mid-20% range. Given that Warren had earlier polled near 20% the erosion of her popularity did not flow to Bernie.

    Time for Biden, Steyer, Gabbard to drop out. I’d add Warren, given this dismal showing in a neighboring state, but she had a 3rd in Iowa. Hell, Warren should drop out as well.

  16. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Turnout in NH is just behind 2008 levels. Now, I have no idea if the 2008 turnout was close to the NH average, but my gut (and increasingly faulty memory) tells me it was much higher .

    The whole turnout thing, I think, is the result of media in search of a story. It was widely reported that turnout in Iowa was down, only to find out that no, Iowa’s turnout beat 2016 levels and was the highest turnout since 2008. Ditto here.

  17. Jen says:

    @Neil Hudelson: One caveat on using the 2008 NH primary turnout levels–there were competitive primaries on both the Dem and Republican side that year.

  18. @Modulo Myself:

    The establishment obviously does not want Bernie to get the nomination

    Gee, why wouldn’t the establishment want a near-80 year-old, self-proclaimed socialist who spent his whole political career markedly not being a Democrat?


  19. DrDaveT says:

    It occurs to me that what the party’s triage process needs is a way to let prospective voters separately signal (a) what issues they care about, (b) what policies they favor, and (c) which candidates they prefer. Voting for a specific person is an unintelligible muddle of those things, which is not helping at all.

  20. @DrDaveT: You are hitting on the fundamental challenge of representative democracy, especially in a system that ultimately channels all voter choices into a binary one.

  21. Jen says:

    @Neil Hudelson: NPR is now reporting that 2020 primary turnout here now exceeds the record set in 2008, when there were contested primaries in both parties. So, record turnout.

  22. Kurtz says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You know, you seem so cogent when writing about many things, until you start evaluating Democrats.

    You make one good point–that the moderate vote is outpacing the progressive vote. Great.

    But explain why multiple polls find Sanders as the most popular second choice for Biden voters. Wait, I got it, it’s the gerontophilia coalition!

    You keep repeating on every post about the primaries that Sanders can’t win and certainly can’t get us the Senate. Do you have evidence for this assertion? What is so unique about Buttigieg or Klobuchar that they will deliver the Senate? You think that because they can pick up a few exiled Republicans in one race, that those same voters will vote for the Dem in any other race? Please.

    Speaking of Buttigieg, who the fuck runs to the center during the primaries? I’ll tell you who–a person with no convictions and poor negotiating skills. Worse, it’s suggestive that he wants to occupy the office rather than execute a plan. That’s why young Democrats and progressives don’t support him–they don’t trust him. It has nothing to do with his platform. It’s him; it’s his person.

    The other day, I responded to you by arguing that your opinion of Buttigieg was a conflation of intelligence with unintimidating and afraid to rock the boat. You responded with an unwieldly defense of his intelligence. I expected a professional writer to unpack what I wrote, so the leading bit about you being able to recognize verbal IQ elicited a chuckle.

    It wasn’t a statement denying his intelligence. His image is sculpted to evoke your response–intelligence as a PR exercise is misdirection to hide a lack of substance. When Trump said, “I’m, like, a smart person,” it’s a salesman con. Embedding it in a persona is smoother, but no less a con.

    As far as the Senate goes, do you really think that suddenly the GOP will come to play ball because the Dems nominate a moderate? No. No, again.

    Remember how I said it isn’t his platform that turns off Progressives? His positions are relatively moderate, but he isn’t a centrist.

    It simply doesn’t matter what gets proposed by whom–the messaging from the right will be the same with slightly different descriptors.

    How many times do Dems have to lose before they realize that it doesn’t matter how far they move to the center, the same messaging will work on the same people while justifying the right-ward drift of the GOP?

    As pointed out in my exchange with Andy in a recent thread, my analysis of this election is counterintuitive. I admit that. But conventioanl political analysis is exactly how we got here in the first place. The two parties are playing different games. And the Dems have been raking small pots and losing big ones.

    Analyzing the whole electorate, particularly less frequent voters, through an ideological lens is the wrong approach right now.

    The 7 millionish Obama-Trump voters are not ideological–they want change.

    -Buttigieg and Klobuchar are exactly what they don’t want: transparently political and members of protected groups.

    -Biden appears to be on his way to assissted living while Hunter is installing mirrors on the ceiling and moving a giant glass coffee table into the living room.

    -My preference, Warren, brings out the Junior High in them. They see her as the shushing librarian ushering them to class just before the bell.

    They want an outsider. Yang is gone. That leaves Bloomberg and Sanders.

    Bloomberg carries significant baggage from both sides of the aisle. Almost nobody, especially the working class, likes stop and frisk. It’s outright disqualifying for plenty of POC. There is no way he will be able to distance himself from it. The ones who would defend it–the law and order military haircuts–aren’t moving off Trump.

    Sanders captures their anger. What you see as an obstacle–stubborness–is a qualification to the change voter. Being in the Senate for a long time didn’t change him. Trust and faith in him is justified because it has been earned.

    Bottom-line: no matter who wins the nomination, the GOP message will be slightly different wording with the same effect. They have never needed an actual socialist to raise the red specter. At least Bernie doesn’t have to shuck and jive to avoid it. If there’s one thing almost everyone hates, it’s smarm.

  23. Kurtz says:


    Also see my response to Reynolds above. Much of that applies here as well.

    Not sure about all of that. Sanders, unlike all the others, isn’t arguing to increasing the corporate tax rate. All the others includes Bloomberg.

    If you think that Republican messaging is going to be qualitatively different for any of the candidates, I’m not sure what to say.

  24. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Any ideas on a system for that? Maybe a straw plebicite on the ballots?

    In a related matter, I was thinking that five super primaries of ten states each may be a good system. Group them so that each is a mixture of different population levels and demographics. Space it out over the same rough timeframe as now to allow for better vetting.

    Straw plebicites may make sense with that sort of system.

  25. @Kurtz: Not to be too blunt: but I think all of that would be pointless.

    (although good exist polls can accomplish this goal, to a point).

    The fact is that people vote for candidates for any number of reasons, and the hard part about representation is that what I want out of candidate X and what you want out of candidate X may be wholly different from one another.

    The best we do is try and find the candidate (or party) that best reflects our interests, which then are aggregated.

    This is why I carry on about wanting a more representative system: more parties make this eeasier (although any such system would be imperfect).

  26. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    That is the crux of my point about Sanders. His relationship to the establishment is a qualification with an angry electorate.

    Unfortunately, too many Dems are focusing on getting rid of Trump. Taking a negative position works in a conservative world view, because the inclination is to preserve the status quo. In situations in which the electorate is largely unhappy, the focus can be shifted to a restorative frame. Hence, Make America Great Again.

    McCain didn’t lose in 2008 just because Obama was a better candidate and politician or because his party had just served two terms in Oval Office. He lost because his platform was a strategy appropriate for a positive electorate. An already bad situation got worse when the financial crisis hit.*

    The left in general has to answer a bunch of questions even if it is generally acknowledged that there is a problem. They have to not only explain a policy change, but they also have to figure out how to sell it, how it solves the problem, how they will get it through Congress without losing its essence, and hos to pay for it. That’s hard to communicate persuasively in sound bites and debates.

    EDIT, I forgot to finish my thought: Nominating someone based on a speculative model for how to remove Trump will not win anyone over. Worse, it’s basically an invitation for exiled Republicans to split ticket vote and stymie any agenda. That gives away the next election as well, because even if the Dem wins this year, s/he will have been unable to do anything for four years.

    If the Dems play this election right, they have a chance to re-center the political spectrum along sensible lines.

    Waiting for the Republicans to float back to center will take an unknown amount of time. Trumpism won’t last, but it won’t disappear overnight either.

    The problem is, many of the alienated Republicans aren’t exactly centrist. Many of them are establishment ideological. Trump won with the populist strain of conservatives and added the pissed of working class that people like Clinton, Klobuchar, and Buttigieg will never excite enough to win over.

    *I watched a documentary recently. A bunch of people who were there described the scene at the White House when Bush, McCain, and Obama met to discuss bailouts.

    Apparently, after Obama spoke, everyone turned to McCain, who said that he would do whatever the other Republicans think is best. Conservatives, when people are generally happy, can run as stewards of a tradition. When things aren’t going well, if they don’t frame their agenda as restoring a previous idyll, they get trounced.

  27. Jen says:

    @Kurtz: Well, as a former Republican political campaign operative, I’ll acknowledge I might be viewing this through a very specific lens. I do think that when Republican strategists are gaming out scenarios, they’d rather run against Sanders because the ads practically write themselves–and, they’ll be easier to raise money off of.

    Being in the Senate for a long time didn’t change him.

    This is not an asset, it’s a liability. “Change” for the sake of change got us Trump.

  28. Kurtz says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Werebyou referring to re-formatting the primary schedule or the addition of referendum style questions for primary voters?

    Either way, no need to worry about being too blunt with me. I’m not sensitive–one will almost always be wrong a lot to eventually get closer to being correct. I post here for that feedback. In this case, it was just something that popped into my head while I was reading you and Dr. Dave’s comments.

    On the addition of plebicite style questions on the primary ballot:

    It is pointless from an electoral perspective. But I suppose I was thinking along the lines of it functioning as an alternative to issue polling by firms–it eliminates sample size errors, but narrows the pool to highly motivated partisans, who of course have clearer preferences.

    The five super primary idea was a way to change the schedule and was mostly a response to all of the frustration expressed about the perceived importance of unrepresentative small states going early. I’m not as invested in that as others.

    You and I have discussed this before, and are in lockstep agreement on the need for structural reform to the electoral system. This system would probably not be so frustrating in a less populous, socially homogenous, and geographically contained nation.

    But we are not. Even if we were more homogenous in ethnic and racial terms, for instance, like Norway, regional variation and urban/rural distinctions would still make it difficult to foster meaningful representation.

    Question: do you think that it functioned better when the parties were more heterodox? And if so, that kind of reordering of the parties is possible?

  29. DrDaveT says:


    Unfortunately, too many Dems are focusing on getting rid of Trump.

    Here we disagree. I think too many Dems are focusing on proposing policies to address real problems, and failing to worry first about getting into a position where those policies might have a chance to be implemented.

    Nothing about the status quo is more dangerous to the future of America than the current combination of an incompetent corrupt President, a sycophantic enabling Senate, and an executive branch purging the honest and competent civil servants and replacing them with minions of the crime family.

    Nobody is going to beat Trump without framing the contest in those terms and activating the voter base of patriots who can see the danger. The candidates best able to do that are, in my opinion, NOT the candidates with the best policy goals, or the candidates with the best policy proposals. God help us, Bloomberg might be the best choice, given the narrow necessity to get Trump out of office before America implodes. I will happily entertain arguments that others might be better, but I’m certain Bernie isn’t.

  30. Kurtz says:


    This is not an asset, it’s a liability. “Change” for the sake of change got us Trump.

    Ah, but that is the point. It brought us Trump, an intellectually incurious narcissist without a worldview.

    Trump, assuming his goal was to win the nomination and the general, didn’t base his platform on how he sees the world, because that is all nonsense to him. He’s an instinctual guy, not a thinker.

    In fact, a well-developed paradigm is likely a hindrance to his goals–he is intested in money, fame, and his self-image is rooted in those two things. So what he professes to believe is whatever serves those interests at any given time. His platform was cobbled together from opinion journalism on cable news, not a vision for America.

    That description does not fit Sanders, who most definitely has a worldview informed by political philosophy. I doubt Trump could name more than a handful of philosophers, and even those he would likely have a only vague sense of what they wrote about.

    Sanders has an sophisticated worldview. People often make a mistake when discussing liberation-based philosophies on the Left and the Right by flattening them into 2-dimensional, greyscale sketches that don’t acknowledge the intracicies within them. They do this especially to those they consider in opposition.

    Trump and Sanders are only comparable in style (somewhat) and outsider status, but not at all on an intellectual level.

  31. Kurtz says:


    You seem to read my posts carefully, so I trust that you understand my criticism of the field.

    Let’s give Sanders the nomination. The concensus everywhere seems to be that he won’t be able to enact his agenda, especially if the GOP controls the Senate. Look at the calculus from the perspective of someone like Frum, Joyner, Kristol or even a conservative to moderate Dem who thinks Trump is a serious threat:

    Four choices:

    1.) Trump (potential disaster)

    2.) Sanders (straight ticket in Senate contests/House; risks Dem majority – >filibuster nuke – > some or all of agenda passes)

    3.) Sanders (split ticket)

    4.) 3rd party/abstain from Pres. (risks Trump victory, vote whichever way in House/Senate)

    Option 1: Given the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, none of those people unless one thinks that Sanders could push his agenda through Congress. But the near universal view is that is highly unlikely.

    Toy with it it looks like the Dems flip the Senate?

    Option 2: maybe moderate Dems. The other group is unlikely to choose this, as voting for Sanders and giving him a Senate majority seems like a bad idea.

    Option 3: makes sense. Elminates Trump and mitigates risk of Dem trifecta

    Option 4: a protest (non)vote after all the energy and bandwidth spent decrying the grave risk Trump presents? Hmmm… Somebody has been lying.

    How is 3 NOT the best option?

    The key to this is that once you replace Sanders with any of the others (save Bloomberg… maybe) a more realistic agenda, and more flexibility, the calculus gets more complicated especially for an anti-Trump Republican or a conservative Dem.

    In short, the better the candidate, the higher the risk of non-preferred policy outcomes.

    No way Sanders turns off many of our selected group.

    Isn’t option 3 the ultimate ratfuck?

  32. DrDaveT says:


    In short, the better the candidate, the higher the risk of non-preferred policy outcomes.

    I think you’re confusing Republican politicians with Republican voters. Your analysis makes sense for the insider; it doesn’t work for the average Red State Joe who votes with his tripes.

    We need a candidate who can either shift a significant number of 2016 Trump voters to vote for a Dem, or get out a significant number of 2016 non-voters to vote against Trump. I don’t see any positive cause that will accomplish that, including Bernie’s anti-wealth crusade. You need an anti-Trump crusade, which is a very different pitch requiring a different candidate.

  33. Kurtz says:


    This is why I post here. I need people like you, Andy, Steven, and James to pish back to find flaws and unexamined assumptions. You make the time spent worthwhile. It’s difficult to find this kind of group anywhere.

    Yes, I am conflating voters with party members and those adjacent to the party.

    We need a candidate who can either shift a significant number of 2016 Trump voters to vote for a Dem, or get out a significant number of 2016 non-voters to vote against Trump. I don’t see any positive cause that will accomplish that, including Bernie’s anti-wealth crusade.

    I think this highlights where are true disagreements lie.

    I see the electorate a little differently, and thus see Bernie’s chances a bit differently.

    I suspect our risk assessments might be a little different as well.

    Also, we agree on a lot, especially in certain shared philosophical ideas. I do my best to not let my preferences affect how I view primary candidates. I think I’m successful.

    But in thinking about this election or other situations like it, I am probbably letting my long term goals for the Dems affect my current preferences.

    You’re much more likely to be correct. But there is a chance I’m reading correctly.

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Have a good day.