ROCHESTER, N.H.—Like last week’s muddled Iowa caucus, tomorrow’s New Hampshire primary may reveal as much about the limits of the leading Democratic candidates as it does their strengths.
The results from Iowa, polls in New Hampshire, and surveys of Democrats beyond those states all point toward the same conclusion: So far, none of the candidates has built a coalition that reaches broadly across the party. Instead, each is confined to a distinct niche of support that is too narrow to establish a commanding advantage in the race. That could guarantee a lengthy war of attrition for the nomination—and possibly even a brokered convention—as the leading contenders divide the Democratic voter base along lines of race, class, generation, and ideology.
“None of them have shown an ability to break out from their narrow lane,” says the Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, a consultant for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign who is unaffiliated this year. “None of those candidates right now appear to be big enough to break from the pack. We’ve got a long primary season ahead of us.”
For most of the past week, voters in New Hampshire looked poised to simply reconfirm the top two tiers of candidates that emerged from the Iowa results. A flurry of major media surveys uniformly show Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the top two positions, trailed by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota—who finished in that sequence in Iowa. But the final media tracking polls released over the weekend show Klobuchar potentially moving past Warren and Biden, an apparent strong reaction to her performance in Friday night’s debate.