By Jim Ellis
Feb. 11, 2020 — At long last, the New Hampshire nomination election has arrived, and voters have already begun casting their ballots in what is often referred to as the “first in the nation primary.” The initial state in a line of 48 primaries (the other nine states and territories have caucuses), just how important is today’s vote in determining who wins the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination?
Considering the split Iowa vote where it appears that five different candidates will be awarded a certain number of first-ballot national convention delegate votes ranging from 14 to one, New Hampshire’s 24 aggregate delegates will not likely alter the current race trajectory; therefore, multiple candidates will still be battling through Nevada and South Carolina before Super Tuesday with no one having a clear early path to majority support.
First-ballot victory at the Democratic National Convention in July can only come when one candidate top 50 percent of delegate support. Therefore, regardless of the importance media analysts attempt to assign this New Hampshire race in terms of a momentum boost, it is the delegate numbers that will still tell the story.
Coming from Iowa, former South Bend mayor, Pete Buttigieg, looks to earn 14 delegates with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) close behind with 12. Now, Sen. Sanders’ team is requesting a partial recount in Iowa that might earn him an extra delegate or two, but it is doubtful the Iowa Democratic Party, with a party leadership still reeling over the vote counting debacle, will grant their request.
Continuing the projected delegate apportionment, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) would earn eight bound delegate votes, former vice president, Joe Biden six, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one.
Polling suggests that Sen. Sanders will place first tonight, but several candidates look to break the 15 percent threshold to also qualify for bound delegate votes. Polling finds scenarios where Buttigieg, Warren, Biden, and even Klobuchar will surpass the minimum threshold, though it is unlikely that all will do so. In fact, with Biden’s early support evaporating before our eyes, it is possible that he will fall short of 15 percent tonight meaning that he would be shut out of delegate votes. Though Sen. Klobuchar appears to be closing fast, it is also likely that she finishes under 15 percent.
Therefore, assuming three candidates receive bound delegate votes tonight, Sanders and Warren, and Buttigieg, the delegate dispersion from New Hampshire’s 24 delegates could look something like this: Sanders 10; Buttigieg 8; and Warren 6.
Should this be the case, the aggregate number coming from Iowa and New Hampshire would be as follows: Sanders 22; Buttigieg 22; Warren 14; Biden 6; and Klobuchar 1. Keeping in mind that one candidate must reach a total of 1,990 votes to secure a first ballot victory at the national convention tells us that, except for what will prove to be short-lived momentum, the first two results do little to forecast who will become the eventual party nominee
Next up is Nevada, but with an 11-day respite. The Silver State caucuses will convene on Saturday, Feb. 22. The result there, however, with only 36 delegate votes at stake will likely be similar to what is found in Iowa and New Hampshire.
A week later in South Carolina, however, may tell us a different story. As this race evolves, it will be the Palmetto State that becomes the most important of the First Four before moving to the 14-state and one territory delegate bonanza on Super Tuesday just three days later.
It is already becoming imperative for Biden that he win in South Carolina. If he fails to do so, meaning he will blow a huge double-digit polling lead that lasted for more than a year, would suggest that this may be the point when his campaign effectively ends.
Tonight’s result will likely be anti-climactic because another close bunching of several candidates won’t decide anything. Its main significance will be to serve as a momentum lynchpin in moving toward a more decisive vote in South Carolina.