MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg are looking to separate from the pack and become the candidates to beat as voters head to the polls for the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) appears to be making a late charge, drawing her biggest crowds of the year and hauling in $2 million in 14 hours after glowing reviews about her debate performance in Manchester.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, long the front-runner in the race nationally, is now telegraphing a poor result in New Hampshire and hoping he can salvage his campaign later this month when voters in Nevada and South Carolina go to the polls.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who finished third in Iowa but has lost stature in the race to Sanders, is hoping for a strong result.
Democrats are hoping the result from New Hampshire provides some clarity after the muddled outcome in Iowa, which produced a split decision between Sanders and Buttigieg amid mass confusion and delays in the reported results.
The Vermont senator has long been the favorite to win neighboring New Hampshire, where he triumphed over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by more than 20 points in 2016. But he has only a small lead over Buttigieg in the latest polls, and the former South Bend mayor has been matching Sanders with big crowds of enthusiastic supporters.
Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar are generating the most buzz in the state. They’re packing big venues and voters are waiting in long lines in frigid temperatures to get into their events.
New Hampshire voters — 42 percent of whom are registered independents — are known to break late. That could be good news for Klobuchar, or even Warren and Biden, although neither appears to have much momentum here.
“This is anyone’s race to win, I still believe that, with the huge number of voters who are still undecided,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley.
Buttigieg notched a big crowd Sunday morning in Nashua, pulling 1,800 people into a local gymnasium. Voters stood in long lines snaking around Elm Street Middle School, holding “Pete for America” signs and wearing “Boot Edge Edge” shirts in the below-freezing temperatures.
Sanders bested that crowd later in the day with an event at Keene State College, where nearly 2,000 people came to hear him speak. He’ll likely top that Monday night at the 6,000-capacity Whittemore Center in Durham at an event featuring the popular indie rock band The Strokes.
The intensity of Sanders’s support has been on full display all weekend across the state, most notably in the rural areas where he’s expected to mop up.
About 750 people crammed into a small opera house in Rochester on Saturday morning as filmmaker Michael Moore and former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner worked the crowd. Hundreds had to be turned away on what was one of the state’s coldest days of the year.
Buttigieg and Sanders have been sharpening their attacks against one another in hopes of reaching independent voters.
Speaking at a high school gymnasium to about 700 people in Salem on Sunday, Buttigieg cast Sanders as an unbending ideologue who won’t be able to get anything done because he refuses to compromise.
“At a moment like this when the message goes out that you’re either for a revolution or you’re for the status quo, most of us don’t know where we fit and would rather make room for a movement that’s for all of us,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg needs a top showing in New Hampshire to get another look from voters of color before the contests in Nevada and South Carolina, where a more diverse electorate is set to vote. He’s hoping to leave New Hampshire as the favorite for Democrats eager to stop Sanders.
Sanders has leaned into the argument that Buttigieg is compromised by big money.
“If you’re serious about political change in America, change is not going to be coming from somebody who gets a lot of money from the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders said at a campaign stop in Plymouth. “No one really believes you’re going to take on the pharmaceutical industry when they’re giving you massive amounts of money.”
Some Democrats are concerned Sanders could roll to the nomination with a victory in New Hampshire. “There’s just too many centrists battling each other and it’s playing right into Bernie’s hands,” said one Democrat who has raised money for Biden.
Klobuchar is hoping a strong showing for her campaign will set her up as the centrist alternative to Sanders. In her final pitch, she is urging voters to get on board with the underdog.
“A lot of people did not think I was going to make it through this summer, or make it to that debate stage,” Klobuchar said Monday at a lunch with voters in Nashua. “But I made it to that debate stage, and since that debate our campaign has been surging.”
Biden could be in big trouble with another distant finish in New Hampshire. His allies say he’ll soldier on even if he finishes in fifth place, believing that his strong support among African Americans will deliver him a victory in South Carolina.
“He’ll be fine,” said Democratic National Committee member Bob Mulholland, who supports Biden. “Nevada and South Carolina will turn him into the comeback kid.”
But the race will get more complicated for Biden after South Carolina, as former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg begins his efforts to collect delegates on Super Tuesday.
A new Quinnipiac University national poll released Monday found Sanders in the lead at 25 percent, followed by Biden at 17 percent and Bloomberg at 15 percent. Bloomberg has already spent more than $300 million on television ads and is the only candidate up and running in all 14 Super Tuesday states.
There are also questions about whether Warren, who is from neighboring Massachusetts, can survive a distant finish in New Hampshire.
Candidates from neighboring states have traditionally outperformed here, and it would be hard for Warren to make the case that she can challenge Sanders on the left after losing to him in Iowa and New Hampshire.