The pressure is on Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul Buttigieg2020 candidates condemn Senate for acquitting Trump, set sights on election Iowa Democrats to issue ‘minor correction’ to latest caucus results The Hill’s Campaign Report: Democrats tout Obama ties as race shifts to New Hampshire MORE to post a top finish in the New Hampshire primary next week as the former South Bend, Ind., mayor looks to build on momentum from his surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses.
The Iowa caucuses remain unsettled, but with almost 75 percent of the vote tallied as of Wednesday afternoon, Buttigieg has a small lead over Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIowa Democrats to issue ‘minor correction’ to latest caucus results The Hill’s Campaign Report: Democrats tout Obama ties as race shifts to New Hampshire Tlaib: DNC rules committee members working on Bloomberg campaign is a ‘conflict of interest’ MORE (I-Vt.). Perhaps more importantly, Buttigieg far exceeded expectations and is likely to finish well ahead of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff: Bolton ‘refused’ to submit affidavit on Trump’s involvement in Ukraine controversy Pence celebrates Trump’s acquittal: ‘It’s over, America’ Biden offers advice to young people with stutters: It’s important ‘to not let that define them’ MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar2020 candidates condemn Senate for acquitting Trump, set sights on election Iowa Democrats to issue ‘minor correction’ to latest caucus results The Hill’s Campaign Report: Democrats tout Obama ties as race shifts to New Hampshire MORE (D-Minn.), who represent his biggest obstacles to becoming the party’s centrist standard-bearer.
Sanders will still enter the Granite State as the prohibitive favorite. But New Hampshire Democrats say a top-two or top-three finish for Buttigieg, in which he comes out ahead of his moderate rivals, could be enough to burnish his case as the strongest centrist and best-positioned alternative to Sanders.
The stakes are high for Buttigieg, as the primary calendar will then turn from predominantly white states to more racially diverse states, where he has struggled to connect with voters of color.
“He needs a good showing in New Hampshire to help push him through Nevada and South Carolina that are going to be much harder states for him, and to also keep making the case to being the alternative to Biden,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale.
The Buttigieg campaign is going all-in, betting momentum in the Granite State will open new pathways for him further down the road.
Buttigieg has been campaigning across New Hampshire since leaving Iowa late Monday night. He will hold more than a dozen town halls across the state this week, including an event with veterans on Thursday in Merrimack.
The Merrimack event is in Hillsborough County, one of three pivot counties in New Hampshire that voted for President Obama and then for President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Bolton ‘refused’ to submit affidavit on Trump’s involvement in Ukraine controversy Yang congratulates Romney for ‘voting his conscious and character’ in convicting Trump McConnell ‘disappointed’ by Romney impeachment vote, but ‘I’m going to need his support’ MORE. Buttigieg focused extensively on the pivot counties in Iowa, many of which are in rural areas, and that strategy appears to have fueled his strong showing in the Hawkeye State.
Buttigieg has offered himself up as the kind of consensus candidate that can speak to Republicans and Democrats alike. The strength of that message will be tested in New Hampshire, where a plurality of voters are “undeclared” independents, many of whom are expected to vote in the Democratic primary on Tuesday.
Still, Sanders, from neighboring Vermont, is the heavy favorite to win in New Hampshire. He has opened up an 8-point lead over his closest rival in the RealClearPolitics average. Sanders crushed former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI chief says foreign disinformation ‘never stopped’ | DNC says Iowa app won’t be used in other states | Shadow CEO feels ‘really terrible’ about caucus debacle | Trump trade adviser claims Bezos won’t meet him Romney shocks GOP with vote to convict FBI director says foreign disinformation campaigns ‘never stopped’ after 2016 elections MORE in New Hampshire in 2016.
The latest Boston Globe–Suffolk University daily tracking poll found Buttigieg gaining 4 points overnight and pulling into a second-place tie with Biden at 15 percent support, 9 points behind Sanders.
An Emerson College survey released Tuesday found Buttigieg all alone in second place at 17 percent support, trailing Sanders by 15 points but leading Biden by 4 and Klobuchar by 6.
Democrats are bracing for the polls to shift seismically over the next few days.
One big question around Buttigieg’s campaign is whether he’ll get a bump from Iowa that is consistent with past caucus winners.
The delay in reporting results and the media frenzy around the botched caucuses may have come at a cost to Buttigieg, according to Joe Trippi, a veteran Democratic campaign hand who has worked on several presidential and congressional races in New Hampshire.
“There’s no way it will be the same momentum he would have had if every activist and donor in the country was watching on Election Day and he could come out and give a prime-time speech thanking Iowans,” Trippi said. “It will be more diffused. It’s not fair to him, but if there’s a cost to what happened and if someone is paying it, it’s probably Pete.”
Despite the winner not being declared yet, Buttigieg acted like he won, making the cable news rounds and giving speeches about his top finish.
The campaign said its website received more internet traffic than ever before and that donations poured in at a record clip after the caucuses.
“They had a good result from the caucus results but an even better boost from doing a good job spinning the uncertainty into a win and momentum into New Hampshire,” Vale said. “But they have to keep it going.”
Now, Buttigieg’s task is to convince voters that the 38-year-old former mayor of a mid-size city has the mettle to take on President Trump.
“Voters are very focused on figuring out which candidate they think can beat Trump, and he’s got to demonstrate that he has the experience and maturity to be president,” said Jim Demers, a Democratic strategist in New Hampshire who is backing Biden. “One question people ask about Pete — and they like him, but they also know that beating Trump in November may mean someone a bit more experienced.”
Buttigieg, an openly gay millennial, has been making the case for generational change in an effort to cut into Biden’s pitch that he is the most experienced and most electable.
Biden has taken notice, lashing out at Buttigieg at an event in New Hampshire for tying him to the “old, failed Washington.”
“Is he really saying the Obama-Biden administration was a failure?” Biden asked. “Pete, just say it out loud.’’
Buttigieg will have two more prime-time opportunities to make his case to New Hampshire voters — and to potentially reach new voters in more diverse states — at a CNN town hall this week and a primary debate on Friday.
Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo said Buttigieg needs to have solid performances at both to keep the pressure on his rivals.
“He is going to get rocket fuel not just in donations but within his polling stance in New Hampshire,” Trujillo said. “Another knockout blow to Biden and Bernie in New Hampshire can propel him into Nevada and South Carolina with real momentum and he could start to build a more diverse coalition than what Iowa and New Hampshire offer.”
Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas said the real test for Buttigieg is whether he can expand his base of support beyond educated white voters.
“We don’t know where voters of color aren’t going to be going yet,” Petkanas said. “They haven’t had a chance to weigh in. But no candidate will win this nomination without doing very well with the backbone of our party. It’s a big question mark as to whether he can compete [for African American and Latino votes], but if he can’t he’s not going to be the nominee.”
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