Analysis: The Real Winner of the New Hampshire Primary Was Bernie Sanders

The big story was that a candidate got more votes than the other candidates.
February 12, 2020, 3:57pm
Bernie Sanders laughs
Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

The second contest in the Democratic nominating process has concluded, and the winner is Bernie Sanders. He won 25.9 percent of the vote, finishing ahead of Pete Buttigieg, who won 24.4 percent, and Amy Klobuchar, who won 19.8 percent. Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden finished fourth and fifth respectively, each with less than 10 percent of the vote.

Whether Sanders’ win was a win in a way that matters depends on who you ask; according to wised-up narrativizing from sweaty political journos, the answer is “Not really.” Perhaps bored by the obvious and basic conclusion that the winner is determined by the actual returns, this class is eager to tell you that Sanders’ win, which came a week after he essentially tied with Pete Buttigieg in the botched Iowa caucus, isn’t the real story. Here’s the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, for example:


In fact, the big story of the night, according to knowing scribes, was Klobuchar, the third-place finisher, who finished fifth in Iowa. Here’s NBC:


Politico, stretching the definition of “comeback”:






USA Today:


And Fox News:


The logic of all of this was probably best expressed by two reporters suffering from chronic Times brain. First, Trip Gabriel—who last year located the heart of the Donald Trump-supporting working class in a majority-minority Ohio city that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 while on his endless Cletus safari—explained that the night’s losers were in fact the winners:

Later, his colleague Jeremy Peters, known among other things for his defense of Cletus safaris, joined him in explaining that losing is the real victory:

On MSNBC, meanwhile, which keeps putting the Bloomberg-is-not-an-oligarch guy on air, Sanders was discussed not as a front-runner or arguably the best option for a unity candidate, but as an underperformer who got fewer votes in New Hampshire than he did four years ago. (In 2016, of course, Sanders was running against only one other candidate compared to this year’s five.)

The margin by which Buttigieg and Klobuchar would have to lose the upcoming Nevada caucus in order to be declared the winners is not yet clear.

This piece has been corrected to accurately state Warren and Biden's New Hampshire primary results.

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