Democrats have a new frontrunner

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will clinch victory in the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire, according to a CNN projection, powered by his strength among blue-collar, younger and more liberal voters.

CNN Opinion contributors weigh in with political analysis on the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary results. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion articles on CNN.

SE Cupp: A bad omen for the Warren campaign

Having grown up north of Boston, just a few miles from the New Hampshire border, I can tell you New Hampshire voters and Massachusetts voters are dissimilar in some striking ways. But that notwithstanding, someone like Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Senator, should have done much, much better in tonight’s New Hampshire primary. With more than 85% of the vote in, she is in a distant fourth behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

That should sound some loud alarms for her campaign, which is already reeling from a third place finish in Iowa, some embarrassing staff defections in Nevada and looming money woes. Warren was hoping New Hampshire would give her a much-needed jolt.

My assessment? Warren has failed to capture a lane. Sanders came out swinging as a Democratic Socialist, out-lefting nearly everyone in the field. Klobuchar has emerged the more promising moderate than a flailing former Vice President Joe Biden. Buttigieg is the exciting newcomer, leaving Warren where, exactly? No man’s land.

Back in 2018, the Boston Globe editorial page told Warren not to run, that she’d missed her moment in 2016. The reason they offered was she was too divisive to take on Trump. But maybe it was that she was too inconsistent, vacillating on issues and losing steam this week. She even admitted herself that in the last debate before this primary, she “just didn’t say enough, didn’t fight hard enough.”

There are a number of contests where Warren could still be competitive, if she can last that long, but finishing fourth in a New England state full of white, older, female suburban voters is likely a very bad omen for her campaign.

SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered.”

Errol Louis: What matters most is who lost

As Democrats seek a candidate to run against President Trump, the party entered New Hampshire urgently needing to trim the size of the 10-candidate field. Some candidates are bumping into hard financial and logistical facts that will spell the end of their candidacies.

Andrew Yang, a newcomer to politics, suspended his campaign shortly after the polls closed. His campaign had spent more than $3 million on television ads in New Hampshire and he campaigned in the state for 62 days — far more than any other candidate except Tulsi Gabbard (who rented a home near Manchester and more or less moved into the state). Senator Michael Bennet dropped out as well.

Former Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t dropped out, but his likely 5th-place finish was a humiliating blow, coming after his self-described “gut punch” of finishing 4th in the chaotic Iowa caucuses. Biden may finish with less than 10% of the vote in New Hampshire and likely won’t win a single delegate.

Any lingering sense of Biden’s inevitability or electability died in the Granite State. In advance of the results, he hastily departed to South Carolina, which he has described as a “firewall” of black supporters that will restore his electoral fortunes.

“The fight to end Donald Trump’s presidency is just beginning,” Biden told supporters. “It ain’t over man. We’re just getting started.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren was also a big loser, finishing no higher than fourth in a state adjacent to her home of Massachusetts. Her single-digit finish likely means that she, too, leaves New Hampshire empty-handed with zero delegates.

In a speech to supporters, Warren warned her fellow Democrats to tone down the level of attacks between them. “We cannot afford to fall into factions,” she said. “We win when we come together.”

Warren’s back-to-back losses in Iowa and New Hampshire raise serious questions about how long she will stay in the race.

Billionaire Tom Steyer spent more than $17 million on television advertising in New Hampshire, and with over 60% of precincts reporting holds less than 4% of the vote and zero delegates. If his luck doesn’t change soon, it’s possible that the wealthy businessman will call it quits.

Errol Louis is the host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

Jen Psaki: The real test is coming up

After Tuesday night, a few things are clear: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the Democratic frontrunner, and he is effectively tapping into a desire for change. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s win in Iowa was not a fluke, and his support is broad and sustained. And Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s strong debate performance and weekend surge put her in the top tier.

But after the Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar supporters celebrate tonight, the real question will be what this means for the nomination fight moving forward.

For Sanders, he is running on the promise of bringing new people into the process and expanding his group of supporters. The turnout numbers in Iowa do not help him tell that story. His campaign also continues to run the race as an outsider, but he is now the frontrunner and if he wants to win the nomination, he will need to build on his support beyond his committed and loyal base.

For Butigieg, he is running on a message of bringing people together — effectively drawing from the support of not just former Vice President Joe Biden, but also Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Still, there are major questions about his ability to draw support from people of color. He has growing operations in Nevada and South Carolina and he has invested in both paid advertising and staff resources, but if he wants to go the distance, he will need strong performances in both of those states.

For Klobuchar, her rise over the final days leading up to the New Hampshire primary positions her as a real contender. But she is also playing catch up. The Nevada and South Carolina caucus and primary come quickly. Sanders, Buttegieg and even Warren and Biden have had operations in the next two states for months. As a top tier candidate, she will also be under much greater scrutiny — including for her record as a prosecutor in Minnesota.

No candidate is perfect in any race ever. But the test is how they capitalize on success during the primary process while also managing their individual weaknesses.

Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is vice president of communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow her at @jrpsaki.

Scott Jennings: Yang dropped out, perhaps Warren should

Given that I’m a Republican, you’d think I would be happy when any of the Democrats running for president fails. But that’s not true. I never met Andrew Yang, but it appeared to me that he was the only person running for president in their primary who was actually having fun.

He had an optimistic message built on fixing things and modernizing various pieces of the government. He was running on a platform warning about the threats of automation — one article said he “ran on a platform warning against the threats of artificial intelligence and automation”– which is a little technocratic for a presidential campaign but probably cemented him as an “ideas guy” for the Democrats for years to come.

And that’s a good thing. We need more people like Yang in politics (I mean, some of his ideas were nutty but fun to talk about), not only because he seems like a good man but also because his platform wasn’t built on punishing everyone liberal Democrats hate.

That’s the strategy that seems to animate many of the other candidates: demonize successful people, brand Republicans and Trump supporters as racists, attack the traditional values of people in rural areas. But I didn’t sense Yang was motivated by that same sort of vindictive attitude; I’m not sure it ever dawned on him to use politics for that purpose.

Which is the exact opposite of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who doesn’t seem to realize her campaign is over. Her speech on Tuesday night gave the impression that she intends to stay until the bitter end, which will serve no purpose other than to let her push her vindictive platform and opinions, like the time at her CNN town hall when she took a mean-spirited jab at voters who believe in traditional marriage.

Warren’s message is not unifying, and her ongoing trouble with the truth about her own narrative has exposed her as inauthentic (she has told some whoppers about her heritage and her kids’ private schooling, for example).

Bernie Sanders appears to be in the driver’s seat now, and the only question for Democrats is whether he will benefit from the same condition of protracted fragmentation within his party that helped Donald Trump win the 2016 GOP primary. With Warren’s announcement of her intention to stay in and with Mike Bloomberg lurking in the wings, it seems perhaps that he may.

Oh, sorry, Joe Biden. You’ve never finished higher than fourth in a presidential primary state in three national campaigns. Don’t wait until South Carolina. Bow out now and save yourself the embarrassment.

Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY.

Sarah Isgur: We’ve got a long way to go

Now everything changes. Nevada and South Carolina are contests totally unlike their more famous siblings in Iowa and New Hampshire, in which retail politics traditionally help win the day. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar may be leaving New Hampshire with the wind at their backs, but everything about their campaign structures — ground game, messaging, voter targeting — are going to have to shift into new gears.

First, the voter demographics are completely different in the next two states. Race is the biggest factor. Iowa and New Hampshire are predominately white states. Nevada, on the other hand, is less than half white — and more than a quarter of South Carolina voters are black. These more diverse states will have different needs and priorities — and the candidates will have to speak to those.

Second, these candidates are moving away from states that had held their first-in-the-nation status for decades. Nevada and South Carolina have only held two early nominating contests for Democrats — in 2008 and 2016. This means there is no tried and true path to victory, and far fewer polls to guide the way. And it means there aren’t the same traditional events — like the famous wooden eggs handed out at New Hampshire’s Politics & Eggs Forum — where voters know to go to meet the candidates.

While there’s nothing unusual about finding an Iowa voter who has met four presidential candidates in person and asked them each a question, Nevada and South Carolina are still adjusting to their new role in the spotlight.

And none of these states will have mattered if this turns into a true battle over delegates. The first four states combined award less than 200 of the 1,991 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. The contests held across the country on Super Tuesday, including California and Texas this year, will award a third of the delegates needed for the nomination. So, what does all this mean for the candidates? In short: we’ve got a long way to go.

Sarah Isgur is a CNN political analyst. She has worked on three Republican presidential campaigns and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School.

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