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Primary moves

Sanders narrowly wins, Klobuchar suddenly rises, and the abortion debate morphs in New Hampshire

Primary moves

A woman leaves the Millstream Community Center, in Hinsdale, after casting her vote in the New Hampshire presidential primary elections. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer/AP)

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination appears wide open after New Hampshire held a razor-thin primary contest on Tuesday night. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., narrowly grabbed the victory in New Hampshire, days after finishing slightly behind Pete Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses. 

On Tuesday night, Buttigieg finished slightly behind Sanders, dislodging Sanders’ hopes of taking a commanding lead in the early primaries. 

New Hampshire didn’t produce the reporting suspense that Democrats suffered in Iowa after a massive tech failure last week, but it did produce a different kind of drama: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., climbed the electoral ladder, finishing in third place, a few points behind Buttigieg. 

Klobuchar’s performance knocks at least some of the wind out of Buttigieg’s primary sails. Despite Buttigieg’s remarkably strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, Klobuchar proved her ability to vie for moderate voters perhaps turned off by Sanders’ affinity for democratic socialism.

Klobuchar offered a noticeable nod to moderates on Tuesday morning, saying she believed there is a place in the Democratic Party for pro-life Democrats. Her comments came a few days after Sanders flatly rejected such a notion. 

When a moderator at a presidential forum in New Hampshire asked Sanders about a place in the party for Democrats who are pro-life, he answered: “I think being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat.” Buttigieg also hasn’t expressed a willingness to work with pro-life Democrats.

Matt Rourke/AP

Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, greet voters in Manchester, N.H. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Klobuchar is a longtime adoption advocate and serves as co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. In 2018, she introduced legislation with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., to help provide more services to adoptive families. 

During an appearance on The View on Tuesday, Klobuchar said she was “strongly pro-choice” but also spoke about her adoption advocacy. She said she thought Democrats need a tent big enough to include pro-life Democrats: “We need to bring people in instead of shutting them out.”

But it’s unclear how much elbow room pro-life Democrats would have under Klobuchar’s tent. Promoting adoption is an essential part of pro-life efforts, but Klobuchar has pledged fidelity to a strongly pro-abortion plank. 

In responses to a New York Times survey, Klobuchar said she would support: repealing the Hyde Amendment (a provision to forbid federal funding for abortion), requiring judicial nominees to support Roe v. Wade as settled law, and preserving funding for Planned Parenthood. 

When asked if there should be restrictions on abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, Klobuchar’s campaign said she believes “any restrictions must be consistent with Roe v. Wade.” When asked if she would consider a pro-life running mate, the answer was “no.”

As Klobuchar surged in New Hampshire, other Democratic hopefuls floundered as former front-runners. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., finished a distant fourth in the state bordering her own home state. 

Warren still appears energetic on the campaign trail, but distraction was noticeable in at least one campaign appearance, where she accidentally told a New Hampshire crowd: “It’s up to you, Massachusetts.”

Joe Biden—once considered the front-runner in the Democratic race—didn’t even stay in New Hampshire until the results came in. The former vice president left for South Carolina Tuesday afternoon. He finished fifth in New Hampshire.

Biden’s New Hampshire supporters watched him speak on a live feed from an event in Columbia, S.C. He said he was now focusing on upcoming contests in South Carolina and Nevada. (Nevada holds its caucuses on Feb. 22. South Carolina holds its primary on Feb. 29.)

The early exit from New Hampshire was a bleak moment for Biden and highlighted the sink-or-swim nature of the next two primaries for him. He has a double-digit lead in South Carolina polls but barely leads Sanders in Nevada. 

Meanwhile, Buttigieg has hovered in fifth place in South Carolina despite his early momentum in other states, while billionaire businessman Tom Steyer has surged: Steyer has spent some $14 million on TV and radio ads in South Carolina and is now polling in second place there. 

For some Democratic candidates, New Hampshire proved the end of the trail: Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Sen. Michael Bennett, D.-Colo, both dropped out of the race Tuesday night.

For others, the trail is just beginning. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to focus his campaign efforts on scooping up bigger numbers of delegates on Super Tuesday: Some 1,357 pledged delegates are up for grabs in 16 contests on March 3. By comparison, the first four nominating contests offer important momentum but only 155 delegates.

With 3,979 delegates up for grabs in 57 contests overall—and 1,991 needed to cinch a majority—it’s a reminder there’s still a long road to the nomination, with plenty of turns likely ahead.

Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean

Jamie is WORLD’s national editor based in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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  • TWH
    Posted: Wed, 02/12/2020 09:48 am

    Weak support for pro-life Democrats from Klobuchar. Something like, "I don't think you are so evil that I wouldn't want your vote."