Democrats in disarray in New Hampshire as Sanders surges
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire: For the past year, Democratic voters have been anxious to settle on a savior capable of defeating President Donald Trump.
The first week of primary balloting was supposed to speed the winnowing of an outsized field of candidates and showcase Democrats’ readiness to take back the White House in November. But an embarrassing meltdown in the Iowa caucus vote count, and a dismal showing by Joe Biden, once seen as the safest choice to unseat the Republican incumbent, have only heightened fears among some Democrats that their party isn’t up to the task.
The early strength of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the liberal stalwart who has vowed to upend American healthcare and go after corporations and the wealthy, has some voters worried that Democrats will blow their chance to unseat an unpopular president if the party veers too far to the left.
Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary may do little to dispel the collective unease or help bridge the deep ideological split between the party’s liberal and moderate wings. Several recent polls showed the top two vote-getters in Iowa – Sanders and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg – as the favorites in New Hampshire.
While the primary season is young, voters such as Millie LaFontaine are already feeling a touch of panic. Interviewed Saturday at a Biden rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, the 69-year-old said she wants to back the candidate best-positioned to knock off Trump, but she isn’t sure who that might be.
“I’d like to vote strategically, but we Democrats are in disarray and I don’t know what strategic is,” she said. “I am afraid.”
Adding to the party’s jitters, last week was one of the brightest in Trump’s three years in office. His impeachment trial ended in acquittal. The economy continued churning out jobs. A Gallup poll showed 49% of all registered voters surveyed approve of his performance, the highest mark of his presidency – including an overwhelming 94% of Republicans.
Meanwhile, results in Iowa showed that Democratic voters appear far from a consensus.
After leading in the polls for virtually the entire campaign pre-season, the 77-year-old Biden limped to a fourth-place finish in the caucus. It was a blow to Democratic traditionalists who consider the avuncular former vice president the surest bet to unite the fractious party and defeat Trump.
The strong performance of Buttigieg, the youngest candidate at 38, has boosted his profile as a centrist alternative to Biden. He is projected to have won 14 delegates, two more than Sanders. But polls show he has not attracted much support from black voters, a cornerstone of the diverse Democratic coalition.
Adding to the uncertainty is an ascendant Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York who has positioned himself as a moderate who can win independents and Republicans. Bloomberg is skipping the four early voting states in February but is competing from March 3, known as Super Tuesday, when nearly a third of delegates will be awarded from 14 states, including Texas and California. – Reuters