Manchester, N.H. — After an extremely confusing week in the Democratic presidential primary, I have some bad news: New Hampshire might not resolve as much as you think.
According to early estimates out of Iowa, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg won 14 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention, Sen. Bernie Sanders won 12, Sen. Elizabeth Warren won eight, former Vice President Joe Biden won six and Sen. Amy Klobuchar won one. But how did Klobuchar snag a national delegate when her share of the statewide vote was 12 percent,1 below the delegate threshold of 15 percent? It’s because she got more than 15 percent in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, and around two-thirds of Iowa’s delegates are awarded based on results at the district level, not the statewide level.
When the Iowa caucuses went to hell in a handbasket last week, they probably took some of Americans’ last morsels of trust in the political system down too. But when I asked political scientists and psychologists about the impact of the bungled caucuses on overall political cynicism, they, by and large, weren’t particularly concerned. The vast majority of voters probably won’t care all that much, they said; instead, these experts are more worried about the indirect effects. Long after the shoddy apps have been forgotten, mistrust and bitterness could still be trickling down from political elites to everyone else.
Because very few national polls were released after Iowa, we’ve been eagerly awaiting Monmouth University’s latest national poll even as ballots are cast in New Hampshire. That data has now been incorporated into the model, and with just a few hours until the first polling places close, we’ve frozen the forecast — candidates’ odds won’t update and no new information will be added until after New Hampshire results are available.
Three days after the New Hampshire primary, we are finally getting some polls that reflect the new state of the race — including a poll in Nevada, the next state in the voting sequence, for the first time in a full month! And overall, they’re not showing that any candidate has grabbed a ton of momentum out of Iowa or New Hampshire. That’s probably good news for former Vice President Joe Biden, whose firewall in Southern states appears weakened but still standing. But mostly it’s a recipe for a long, drawn-out nominating contest. In fact, our national primary forecast currently says that the single most likely outcome of the primary season is that no candidate gets a majority of pledged delegates.
On Tuesday, as expected, Sen. Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary, cementing his position as the Democratic front-runner for president. With 97 percent of the expected vote counted,1 Sanders had 26 percent of the vote, while former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg had 24 percent. The big surprise of the night was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who finished third with 20 percent. After those three, there was a big drop-off: Sen. Elizabeth Warren finished fourth with 9 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden ended up fifth with 8 percent.
The Democratic primary is in a confusing state at the moment. And our forecast model is a little confused, also. It’s making a couple of assumptions about how the polls may react to New Hampshire that may not be entirely right. The model is also limited by the lack of polling in states that vote after New Hampshire, most notably Nevada and South Carolina. So we’d encourage you to take the model with a large grain of salt until some of that post-New Hampshire polling comes in.