Warren, Sanders Don’t Need A Good Showing in New Hampshire — They Need To Win

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/01/03/warren-sanders-dont-need-a-good-showing-in-new-hampshire-they-need-to-win/

For Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, winning the 2020 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary next month is not everything, but losing it might be.

Over the years, presidential candidates from states bordering New Hampshire — Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts — have enjoyed success in the New Hampshire primary.

Yet the stakes are high – higher, perhaps, than for candidates not already holding public office in the region. Although winning New Hampshire does not guarantee the nomination, no candidate from a New England state who loses the New Hampshire primary has ever gone on to win the party’s nod.

Examples include former Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney in 2008, former Vermont Democratic Governor Howard Dean in 2004, and the late Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy in 1980.

All lost New Hampshire that year despite polling high early, and all failed to win the nomination.

Romney finished second in New Hampshire behind late Senator John McCain from far-off Arizona — the eventual Republican nominee in 2008. Dean finished second in 2004, and within a few weeks dropped out of the race. Kennedy in 1980 led President Jimmy Carter by comfortable margins in polls of New Hampshire soon after announcing, but eventually lost the state and the race.

What does that mean for Warren and Sanders? While both are competitive in the state right now, between the two of them there may be only one ticket – if that – coming out of New Hampshire.

As of Thursday, January 2, FiveThirtyEight reports that Sanders holds a razor-thin lead over former Vice President Joe Biden in New Hampshire Democratic primary polling, 18.3 percent to 18.2 percent – a statistical tie. Meanwhile, Warren is polling fourth (14.4 percent) behind former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (14.8 percent) – again, a statistical tie.

With the polls so close and the primary set for Tuesday, February 11, any of those four candidates could win the state. However, as Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, told New Boston Post, at least one of the two most left-leaning campaigns is likely to fade after that primary.

“In this upcoming primary, it’s quite likely that only Sanders or Warren emerges with a viable campaign for the nomination — not both,” Scala said in an email message. “That’s true not only because the media will likely portray the race as a regional winner take all contest, but also because both are progressives who depend to a great extent on highly educated, liberal white voters, who are abundant in New Hampshire.”

Every New England candidate who has won a major party nomination won New Hampshire first.

In 1988, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis won a runaway victory in neighboring New Hampshire, and went on to win the Democratic nomination. In 2004, Massachusetts U.S. Senator John Kerry won New Hampshire convincingly, and rolled to the nomination. In 2012, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, running for a second time, won the New Hampshire primary and eventually the Republican nomination.

Yet for presidential candidates from Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, it’s not as simple as win New Hampshire, win the nomination.

Most recently, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won every New Hampshire county over Hillary Clinton in 2016, the Democratic party’s eventual nominee. And in 1992, former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas won New Hampshire, but Bill Clinton, who earned the nickname “the comeback kid” for surviving the first of his many scandals, eventually got the nomination.

Winning the New Hampshire Democratic primary in 1972 did not get Maine Senator Edmund Muskie the nomination, either – largely because he failed to meet expectations. South Dakota U.S. Senator George McGovern eventually took the nomination. And on the Republican side, former Massachusetts Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. won New Hampshire as a write-in candidate over conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964. But Goldwater ended up being the party’s nominee. 

Veteran political scientist and New England College vice president of academic affairs Wayne Lesperance told New Boston Post that candidates from states bordering New Hampshire have many advantages in the primary cycle.

He noted that shared media markets result in higher name recognition, proximity enables more campaign stops, they have a better understanding of the constituency’s needs, and there are transplants in New Hampshire from other New England states who will vouch for experienced politicians from their home states.

“That advantage can be mitigated by time in the state by candidates from away if they are willing to spend significant time on the ground in New Hampshire,” he told New Boston Post in an email message. “Still, that’s ground needing to be made up that those from neighboring states do not have to do.”

Lesperance also agreed with Scala that if Warren and Sanders do not perform especially well in New Hampshire, it would be a major blow to their campaigns.

“So, if Senators Warren or Sanders do not finish in the top three, I would expect there to be a great deal of concern expressed over how one or both could not win, place, or show among neighboring voters,” he said.