By James Oliphant
NASHUA, NH – Bernie Sanders may have established himself as the standard-bearer of the left wing of the Democratic Party, with his strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, but for moderates looking to join a candidate to defend themselves, the image has better more obscure.
Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, seemed well positioned to be the favorite of the party moderates after his tight victory in the nation's first groups in Iowa – until a raise by Senator Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota split the majority vote moderate among them in New Hampshire.
And while former Vice President Joe Biden stayed a lot in Iowa and New Hampshire, as the only moderate with substantial support from African American and Latino voters, he promised to fight even Nevada and South Carolina, both with non- significant white people, render their verdicts.
The three are also preparing for the entrance of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is skipping the first competitions, but has built an unprecedented self-funded campaign machine to compete in expensive states like California and Texas, which vote in March.
The results of the first two contests suggest that the battle for the Democratic nomination to defeat Republican President Donald Trump in November could go on for weeks or even months, and whoever ends up being the champion of the party's moderates is preparing to be the key.
At the end of Tuesday night's primary, the votes accumulated by Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden – a combined total of 53% with 91% of delegates – easily outnumbered the votes received by Sanders and his liberal colleague, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who together they won 35% in a possible sign that voters still prefer a centrist candidate who could appeal to a broader constituency, including independents and Republicans.
Sanders "is still a long way from leading delegates," said David Hopkins, a presidential policy expert at Boston College.
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"If the other candidates do well enough that no one is forced out of the race, we kind of move on."
Iowa and New Hampshire award only 65 of the 3,979 delegates who will help select a Democratic candidate.
While Sanders, a senator from neighboring Vermont, obtained less than 30% of the vote in New Hampshire on Tuesday – compared to the 60% he won in 2016 in a two-way race with Hillary Clinton – there was no denying that his the small victory gave him the opportunity to gain momentum.
Much of the Democratic mainstream fears that Sanders, liberal and unapologetic, will miss a match with Trump.
"There is some panic that is really starting to settle with the establishment's Democrats, with the idea that Bernie Sanders is at the top of the list," said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who worked for the Clinton campaign in 2016. listening is louder. than ever before. "
Sanders supporters, like Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, co-chairman of the Caucus Progressive Congress, believe the party will join Sanders if he continues to win and proves his message is connecting with voters.
"I think everyone understands that he received an attractive message for many people," said Pocan, who joined Sanders in the Iowa campaign.
The next two states nominated have multiple voters and could provide a different verdict than Iowa and New Hampshire, where whites make up more than 90% of the population.
Sanders, who has focused on transforming color voters, young and irregular, has a great chance of beating Nevada, with its large Latin population, while Biden still hopes to ask South American African Americans to resurrect his campaign.
While a new national poll conducted this week by Quinnipiac University showed that Biden's support among black Democrats fell from 51% to 27%, it is still ahead of Bloomberg's 22% and Sanders' 19%.
"So far we have not heard of the Democratic Party's most committed electorate, the African American electorate. 99.9%. That's the percentage of African American voters who have not yet had a chance to vote in the United States," said Biden in Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday night.
"When you hear all these experts and experts on TV talk about the race, tell them it's not over yet, it's just started," he argued after his disappointing fifth place in New Hampshire.
Buttigieg and Klobuchar face challenges about the African-American vote. Neither of them demonstrated inroads with black voters, with Buttigieg especially hampered by criticisms of his term as mayor of South Bend, largely on his management of the police department and his economic development priorities.
While Bloomberg saw an increase in support for black voters according to Quinnipiac research, a newly released audio of him defending the controversial "stop and play" program used by the police during his time as mayor of New York could threaten his newly supported -found. (L1N2AB1CX)
Money can end up being the determining factor. Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden were all scheduled to raise funds in the coming days. Of the three, Buttigieg always raised more money, although Klobuchar's campaign said on Tuesday that it was making a new purchase for a seven-digit TV ad in Nevada.
None of them will be able to compete with the financial power of Bloomberg, which has already spent more than $ 250 million on its campaign.
Hopkins said Bloomberg's imminent presence has already contributed to the feeling that the Democratic race is unstable and may remain until the nominating convention in July.
"It is completely unique for this year," he said. "This increases the prospect of anyone getting the majority of delegates."
(Reporting by James Oliphant in Nashua, New Hampshire, edited by Soyoung Kim and Sonya Hepinstall)