WASHINGTON/MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The focus of the 2020 U.S. presidential nominating process has moved on to New Hampshire after Monday's chaotic Iowa caucuses failed to yield a clear Democratic front-runner in a crowded field of contenders.
"The idea is to pick somebody that's going to be a winner, so that if they won in Iowa, you know they're off and running," said Daniel Torpin, a senior citizen from Manchester, New Hampshire.
Democratic candidates departed for New Hampshire before the party's Iowa results were announced. Technical problems delayed the Iowa Democratic Party from releasing any results by almost a day.
Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, welcomed partial results showing him clinging to a razor-thin lead, saying the returns came "a little later than we anticipated, but better late than never."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, poised to finish a close second, predicted final results would show him leading the popular vote in Iowa.
Partial results showed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in third place with 18.3%, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Biden has led the field in national polls, but his fourth-place finish in the first state to hold a nominating contest could be a sign of weakness going forward.
"He did not do very well relative to expectations, and that may damage him pretty significantly,” said David Redlawsk, a professor of politics at the University of Delaware.
Biden downplayed his disappointing Iowa loss.
"It is time for New Hampshire to speak," he said.
While Iowa may inform New Hampshire voters, the state's fiercely independent electorate is famous for snubbing Iowa victors. Sanders won the 2016 New Hampshire primary after losing the Iowa caucus to Hillary Clinton by less than one percentage point. In 2008, Clinton emerged victorious in New Hampshire one week after then-senator Barack Obama won Iowa.
But these early elections often help narrow the field, as support and donations coalesce around the winners, and poorly performing candidates start to drop out of the race.
On the Republican side, President Donald Trump enters New Hampshire without any strong challenge within the party to his reelection. Trump won 97.1% of the Iowa caucus vote, picking up all 38 delegates. His Republican challengers, former Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, each won about 1% of the vote.
Moderates vs. progressives
It also remains unclear whether the New Hampshire primary will clarify Democratic voters' leanings in an ideological tug-of-war between progressive and moderate wings of the party.
Progressive candidates — further to the left on the ideological spectrum, like Warren and Sanders — are promising transformational change in America. Both are proposing universal, government-funded health care and free college education, as well as higher federal taxes to help pay for them.
Joshua Williamson, a bus driver in Manchester, is a Sanders supporter who believes Democrats just need to get out the vote to win.
"We have a lot of support from the Democratic Party, but it's so spread far out. No one is realizing that coming together is really what's going to help push this party into winning,” Williamson said.
Connie Loguidice, an office worker in her son’s company in Manchester, is also a passionate supporter of Sanders.
"I really like the tuition reimbursement and the health care for all,” she said.
But at the same time, she said it is important for Democrats to win back independent and undecided voters who backed Obama in the 2012 election but voted for Trump in 2016.
Moderates Buttigieg, Biden and Klobuchar say they want to reform the current system, not upend it, envisioning an enhanced but not overbearing role for the government in American society.
Whether the party ultimately nominates a moderate or a progressive, Democrats hope to win over disaffected Trump voters.
While Trump retains high approval ratings among Republicans, a slice of the party is highly critical of his actions and policies, as are many independents. Whether Democrats can appeal to them while running on an agenda that unites and energizes the party remains to be seen.
"In many ways, Democrats need to do both,” said the University of Delaware’s David Redlawsk, “and that’s the challenge they face.”
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Trump labeled progressive Democratic support for expansive government-funded health care as socialism that would “destroy American health care” and “bankrupt the nation.”
With no Democrat likely to dominate the New Hampshire primary, a wide-open race is likely to continue, potentially providing an opening for a presidential contender who did not compete in either Iowa or New Hampshire.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, is spending hundreds of millions of dollars of his personal fortune to blanket the nation with television ads that tout his problem-solving acumen. Bloomberg is casting himself as a unifying moderate alternative in a divided field.