After a New Hampshire win, Bernie faces new challenges
Bernie’s New Hampshire win has solidified his status as the front runner. He’s won the most votes in the first two contests, and by all accounts, he’s on his way to another win in Nevada, where Joe Biden has apparently given up (he flew directly to South Carolina instead yesterday) and where Elizabeth Warren has canceled her ads.
Still, the win wasn’t quite as big as the polls predicted. And looking into the exit polls, there are some warning signs for Bernie going forward. Here’s a snapshot of New Hampshire’s 2020 voters, when asked who they supported back in 2016.
There’s several pieces of bad news for Bernie here. First, even though he won New Hampshire last time by 20 points, Clinton’s voters showed up by a wider margin last night. Meaning Bernie’s voters showed up at a much smaller rate than four years ago. Given how heavily Bernie organized in New Hampshire, it's hard to imagine this trend changing going forward.
Bernie also didn’t convert many Clinton people to his side, earning just 12% of their vote. And among voters who didn’t show up 4 years ago, Bernie placed a distant third, with only 14%. Among Bernie’s 2016 supporters, he held onto 57% of their vote — not really an overwhelming margin.
Biden and Warren had bad nights, but Bernie doesn’t seem poised to gain much if they collapse further. Most of their support came from former Clinton supporters, and only a fraction came from those who previously voted Bernie.
What about Biden’s famous support from black voters? He’s losing it — but not to Bernie. Instead, Bloomberg has managed to rise to 2nd place among black voters.
Meanwhile, Bernie is still getting the cold shoulder from the media, the Democratic establishment, and even some labor unions. Even as he was winning in New Hampshire, the Nevada culinary union decided to blast him with misleading mailers, claiming his health care plan would “take away” their member’s benefits. (In reality, ‘Berniecare’ would be better than any member plan and would automatically provide all union members with substantial raises.)
So, amid all of these warning signs, what is Bernie’s path forward? Well, those exit polls did show one great strength for Bernie, the Latino vote.
If Bernie continues to do this well with Latinos, he will win big in Nevada, and likely earn many delegates in California and Texas. Beyond that, Bernie has to hope a few things go his way.
First, he has to hope that Pete Buttigieg can’t find a way to earn support among minorities. Nevada and South Carolina are far less white than Iowa and New Hampshire, and the Super Tuesday states are similarly diverse. If Pete (and Amy Klobuchar) are only successful at earning the support of upscale, moderate white voters, they likely won’t win a single state in the next dozen contests.
Second, Bernie needs Bloomberg to face more scrutiny. Late yesterday, an audiotape emerged, revealing that Bloomberg told the NYPD to deliberately target minority neighborhoods for random searches because “that’s where all the crime is.” Once Bloomberg becomes a real candidate and starts to have his record scrutinized, his support may start to crumble.
Third, the moderate vote needs to continue to be split. At this point, all of the other major candidates should be considered “moderate,” since all of them are primarily relying on Clinton 2016 voters. If they split in just the right way, with multiple rivals falling below the 15% threshold, Bernie could win a solid majority of delegates on Super Tuesday even if he only wins by a modest margin. That didn’t happen in New Hampshire, since both Pete and Amy managed to snag a decent haul. But if New Hampshire was half Latino, Bernie would have received as many delegates as Pete and Amy combined.