After finding himself the primary target of all the other Democratic candidates in Iowa, Bernie Sanders is finding himself at home in New Hampshire, a friendly neighbor to his home state of Vermont. Sanders has been drawing large crowds in the state, boasting large turnouts of volunteers and young supporters that back his comparatively liberal agenda, at least relative to the other candidates still in the race. After narrowly losing in Iowa to Pete Buttigieg while still winning the popular vote, Sanders has found himself an even larger base in New Hampshire, coming at a time when the other more moderate candidates find themselves fighting for relevance amidst a broad field.
Tom Steyer spent big dollars on New Hampshire television ads attacking Biden and Buttigieg respectively as “an insider” and “a newcomer”, candidates that lacked the experience to run against Trump. Biden’s weakened position has many DNC veterans taking a second look at Bloomberg as the best candidate for the race. Buttigieg, the frontrunner after officially winning the most Iowa delegates, finds himself fighting off all the candidates as the subject of their attacks. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Andrew Yang are all also experiencing difficulty trying to stand out, a jumble of moderate candidates that are all competing for similar pools of voters.
Sanders has been able to differentiate himself from the field with his more extreme policies, and that may be a key advantage for him at this point in the race. Labeled as a dangerous socialist by other candidates such as Biden, their key message against him was that he would unable to win a general election against Trump due to his more radical policy stance. Sanders’ supporters are also dedicatedly loyal, and attempting to run smear ads would likely not be very effective.
For the field of moderate candidates, the New Hampshire and upcoming Nevada and South Carolina primaries are key states in a fight for survival. To make the next round of debates, candidates must meet higher thresholds in both contributions and polling, or else risk being disqualified from the race. Biden appears to be the biggest loser of the fight, as a veteran moderate establishment candidate that at first seemed to be the most logical choice, but with the field still crowded at this point, he has had difficulty garnering support with so many candidates vying for attention.
Already, there are discussions of ramping up the attack against Sanders in Nevada and South Carolina, but for now, Sanders is basking in the glory. “We’re taking on not only the whole Republican political establishment and Trump, we’re taking on the Democratic establishment!” Sanders boasted on Sunday afternoon. “And as some of you may have noticed, Democratic establishment’s getting a little bit nervous.”