New Hampshire primary: Polls close in Democratic Presidential candidate votes

12 February 2020, 00:39

Pete Buttigieg (left) and Bernie Sanders are the race frontrunners
Pete Buttigieg (left) and Bernie Sanders are the race frontrunners. Picture: PA

Most polls have closed in New Hampshire in the Democratic Party Presidential primaries as voters choose their favourite to face Trump in November’s election.

Democrats are hoping that voters in New Hampshire will reset the party's presidential nomination fight and bring clarity to the primary season.

After the chaotic Iowa caucuses failed to perform their traditional function of narrowing the race, it now falls to New Hampshire to begin culling the Democratic field, which still features almost a dozen candidates.

Of the first towns to announce their results on Tuesday evening, Amy Klobuchar won eight votes, with Mr Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on four each, Andrew Yang on three and Pete Buttigieg on two.

For Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, the vote is an opportunity to lock in dominance of the party's left flank.

After essentially tying with Mr Sanders for first place in Iowa, Mr Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, begins the day as the centrist frontrunner.

But at least two other White House hopefuls - former vice president Joe Biden and Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar - are competing for the same voters.

More than a year after Democrats began announcing their presidential candidacies, they are struggling to back a single messenger in their desperate quest to defeat President Donald Trump.

A repeat of Mr Sanders’ strong showing in Iowa could severely damage progressive rival Massachusetts senator Ms Warren, who faces the prospect of an embarrassing defeat on her near-home turf.

During the final day of campaigning, many voters said they had still not made a final choice.

Amy Klobuchar (left) and Elizabeth Warren
Amy Klobuchar (left) and Elizabeth Warren. Picture: PA

University of New Hampshire pollster Andy Smith predicted that as many as 20 per cent of voters would make up their mind on Election Day, with twice as many deciding over the last three days.

"Historically, New Hampshire is known to shift late," he warned those with expectations.

New Hampshire's secretary of state predicted record-high turnout on Tuesday.

If that does not happen, Democrats will confront the prospect of waning enthusiasm following weak turnout in Iowa last week and Mr Trump's rising poll numbers.

Mr Biden - and the Democratic Party's establishment wing - may have the most to lose should the former two-term vice president underperform in a second consecutive primary election.

He has earned the overwhelming share of endorsements from elected officials across the nation as party leaders seek a relatively "safe" nominee to run against Mr Trump.

But the distance between Democratic voters and their party leaders appears to be growing.

After finishing in a distant fourth place in Iowa, Mr Biden acknowledged he would be likely to "take a hit" in New Hampshire.

His campaign sought to cast New Hampshire as one small step in the path to the presidential nomination, with contests coming up soon in more diverse states that award more delegates such as Nevada and South Carolina, where Mr Biden hopes to retain his advantage among minority voters.

The stakes were high for Ms Warren as well in a contest set next door to her Massachusetts home.

She has positioned herself as a mainstream alternative to Mr Sanders but is suddenly looking up at him and Mr Buttigieg as Ms Klobuchar fights to peel away female support.

Ms Warren sought to project confidence, telling reporters she has "been counted down and out for much of my life".

Mr Buttigieg, young and with no governing experience beyond the mayor's office, is trying to emerge as the leading Biden alternative for his party's moderate wing.