A victory, a caution: Takeaways from New Hampshire's primary

New Hampshire Democrats gave Bernie Sanders a win, but also a warning.

Sanders' durability, based both on his 2016 campaign and the first two contests this year, cannot be questioned. What remains unanswered is how moderates will now come at him and whether Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be able to compete credibly for the progressive wing. Her disappointing fourth-place showing gives supporters little confidence.

But Sanders' liabilities are also clear, at least among a large segment of voters in the party who are wary of the 78-year-old self-identified democratic socialist, and how that label could be demonized by President Donald Trump. As he goes forward, Sanders will have to convince voters that he can pay for his plans to fundamentally reorder the American economy in the name of economic fairness.

New Hampshire voters acknowledged a nominee with strongly liberal views might have difficulty against Trump in November, with about 6 in 10 saying it would be harder, according to an AP VoteCast survey of more than 3,000 Democratic primary voters. And more than 7 in 10 voters chose someone else.

Other takeaways from the New Hampshire primary:

MODERATE LANE WIDE BUT FULL OF OBSTACLES

A majority of its voters clearly wanted a moderate alternative. And Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, again made a case to be that choice with another impressive performance, winning votes across broad demographic groups, by running close to Sanders, who defeated Hillary Clinton by 22 percentage points in 2016.

But Buttigieg now has new competition from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who used a strong debate performance to vault to third place and a legitimate claim of momentum.

Both seem in sync with most Democrats' desires. Moderates and conservatives made up a majority of voters Tuesday, according to AP VoteCast.

But things get murkier now that the contest heads to more diverse states. Polling shows that former Vice President Joe Biden has the strongest following among African American voters in South Carolina, where non-white voters comprised about two-thirds of the 2016 Democratic primary electorate, state data show. But Biden's anemic showing in New Hampshire may test that.

Next up is Nevada, and then South Carolina and then 14 states on Super Tuesday, March 3, including mega-states California and Texas. Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar have limited support from minority voters, polls show, but Buttigieg now has demonstrated top-tier appeal and benefited from his outside-the-Beltway pitch.

Another test awaits for the muddled moderate lane — billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been spending hundreds of millions to convince Super Tuesday voters that he, not those who campaigned in the early states, is the best alternative to Sanders.

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Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Primary Night event at the SNHU Field House in Manchester, New Hampshire on February 11, 2020. - Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire's crucial Democratic primary, beating moderate rivals Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar in the race to challenge President Donald Trump for the White House, US networks projected. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters at a primary night election rally at Nashua Community College, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 11, 2020: At her election night party, Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks to her supporters on New Hampshire primary night in Concord, New Hampshire on Tuesday February 11, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 11, 2020: At her election night party, Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks to her supporters on New Hampshire primary night in Manchester, New Hampshire on Tuesday February 11, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, greets supporters at a campaign event in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 11: Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang take a photo with supporters who are holding campaign signs in front of a polling station on February 11, 2020 in Keene, New Hampshire. New Hampshire holds its first in the nation primary today. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Voting precinct workers take a group photograph together before opening their doors for the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, right, meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A woman takes a Democratic ballot to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A voter steps from a booth after casting a ballot in the New Hampshire primary, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, takes the stage at campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, depart after meeting people outside a polling place where voters cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by his wife Jane Sanders, depart after meeting people outside a polling place where voters cast their ballots in a primary election, in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., greets supporters outside a New Hampshire primary polling location, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)
Residents arrive to vote in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
An election worker holds a roll of "I Voted" stickers during the New Hampshire primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Brad Parscale, campaign manager for President Donald Trump, left, wears a red had that reads "Keep N.H. Great" as he arrives to speak on SiriusXM Satellite Radio at the Red Arrow Diner, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Brad Parscale, campaign manager for President Donald Trump, center, wears a red had that reads "Keep N.H. Great" as he arrives to speak on SiriusXM Satellite Radio at the Red Arrow Diner, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Samantha Murch, center, accompanied by her two boys Alexander, 8, and Jacob, 11, left, steps out of the voting booth for the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Samantha Murch accompanied by her two boys Alexander, 8, center, and Jacob, 11, left, votes in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg gather outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg meets with people outside a polling place where voters will cast their ballots in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A sign that reads "Vote! Pick Up Ballot Here" is displayed at a voting precinct for the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A man arrives to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Residents stand in voting booths to vote in the New Hampshire Primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A voter steps out of the booth after casting her ballot in a primary election, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Actor Kevin Costner introduces Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, waves with his husband, Chasten at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accompanied by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, takes the stage at campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Harvard Professor Cornel West speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Harvard Professor Cornel West speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes, performs after Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign stop at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, takes photos with Sara Nidua, 17, center, and Emma Bloom, 18, right, high school students visiting from New York, during a campaign event at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., greets supporters at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
A woman takes a Democratic ballot to vote in the New Hampshire Primary, Manchester, N.H., graphic element on gray
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth, D-Mass., speaks at a town hall campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Moderator Gloria Pilotte wears a "Vote" pin during the New Hampshire Primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
An election worker holds up an "I Voted" sticker during the New Hampshire primary at Parker-Varney Elementary School, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Residents arrive to vote in the New Hampshire primary at Bishop O'Neill Youth Center, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., arrives at a campaign stop at Rochester Opera House, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden flexes his arm along with Jaime Karnilaw of Concord, N.H., as they pose for a photograph at a campaign stop at Cilford Community Curch, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Gilford, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Pat Provencher wears a jacket in the colors of the American Flag covered in buttons in support of Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, at a campaign event for Buttigieg, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Plymouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Kevin Costner arrives for a Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Milford, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A sign is posted in the snow ahead of a Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Milford, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden pauses while speaking to supporters at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020 during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden greet supporters during a campaign event at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaking to supporters at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A man holds a flag that reads "Veterans for Bernie 2020" outside a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the Whittemore Center Arena at the University of New Hampshire, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during a campaign event at Exeter Town Hall, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., laughs as she speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to members of the media on a media bus outside at a campaign stop at Rochester Opera House, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to members of the media on a media bus outside at a campaign stop at Rochester Opera House, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Rochester, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
People wait for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to speak at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks at a campaign event, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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NEW HAMPSHIRE CAN STILL SURPRISE

Klobuchar was a clear expectations winner, a finish that will guarantee she gets another look from voters. New Hampshire revels in hoisting up underdog candidates and this time, it was the Minnesota senator.

She limped into New Hampshire. Then she turned in a strong debate performance Friday in Manchester, saw crowds flood her events, reported raising more than $3 million in three days and on Tuesday crushed a former vice president and the once-top-tier senator from neighboring Massachusetts.

The problem for Klobuchar is almost no infrastructure in the huge map unfurling before Democratic presidential hopefuls. She announced a seven-figure ad buy in Nevada, the next state to vote. But she has only 30 staffers in a state where her rivals have had at least twice as many and that, because it uses a caucus, rewards advance preparation. She’s not even begun to move into the Super Tuesday states.

But Klobuchar demonstrates in New Hampshire that, even in a race that’s been static for months and drowned out by Trump, debates, local quirks and voters matter.

CAN BIDEN SURVIVE IN SOUTH CAROLINA?

There was not a trace of good news for Biden in the New Hampshire results. As in Iowa, he was eclipsed by the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, whom he had tried to diminish as far too inexperienced, and surprisingly by Klobuchar, whom voters saw as a better bet.

Biden's campaign has struggled repeatedly for lack of a rationale and lack of energy that could be seen in the small crowds that attended his events, his dismal fundraising, and his own uneven campaigning.

He has said he welcomes the chance to compete in a state with a more diverse electorate, and even left New Hampshire for South Carolina on Tuesday. But no candidate has failed so badly in the first two nominating contests and gone on to win.

In New Hampshire, roughly half of the state’s Democrats would be dissatisfied with him as the presidential nominee, according to AP VoteCast.

His fall has been swift and dramatic.

WARREN HITS A WALL

Only a few months ago, Warren looked unstoppable in New Hampshire. She represented neighboring Massachusetts, her detail-oriented liberalism seemed a perfect match with the Granite State’s no-nonsense progressives, and she led in state polls.

Now, the trajectory of her campaign is decidedly downward, and she has limited time for a reset. Warren spoke quickly Tuesday night, vowing to fight on, but it’s unclear where she goes next.

Warren has a strong organization and ties in Nevada, but if she can’t win on her neighboring turf it may be tough to score a surprise three time zones away. Unlike Biden, she doesn’t have a demographic bulwark of African American voters to fall back on. And her small-dollar-only fundraising was already being eclipsed by Sanders, even before the Vermont senator began wracking up wins.

The candidate of plans has no clear plan to win now.

DEMOCRATS NOT THE YOUNG AND RESTLESS

Democratic primary voters are old. Nearly two-thirds in New Hampshire were above the age of 45.

These are voters who could have bought first pressings of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” danced to the Chicago Bears’ “Super Bowl Shuffle” and sipped New Coke if not also Crystal Pepsi. They have memories of the Cold War with what was then the Soviet Union. And when it comes to choosing a nominee, this group was split between Buttigieg, Sanders and Klobuchar.

Nationwide, less than 56% of eligible voters are older than 45, according to the Census Bureau.

Sanders had an advantage with younger voters in New Hampshire.

Slightly more than 9 in 10 of New Hampshire voters are white. By way of comparison, just 68% of eligible voters are white.

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