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In New Hampshire, Dems brace for a Sanders win and hope to put Iowa behind them. But will any of it matter?

All eyes are on New Hampshire tonight

Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

All eyes are on New Hampshire tonight as voters in the Granite State head to the polls in the second nominating contest of the presidential primary season, moving the Democratic Party one step closer to selecting their eventual nominee.

Results will (hopefully) start coming in shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern Time when the first polls close, and results will be added to the midnight tallies already entered in Hart's Location, Millsfield, and Dixville Notch — where 20% of the electorate wrote in Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg for the GOP nod.

Things to watch for

Democrats across the country are eager to put last week's debacle in Iowa behind them and are bracing for a clean and smooth election night. Fortunately, New Hampshire is a primary election state, which means that state election officials — not the state's Democratic Party — will be responsible for tallying votes and releasing results. All indicators point to a night free of technical difficulties and results delay misery — but only time will tell.

Both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg will look to build on their strong finishes in Iowa last Monday with victories in New Hampshire. The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Sanders with a sizable lead heading into tonight with 28.7% of the vote and Buttigieg coming in second with 21.3%. The next three runner-ups are Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and former Vice President Joe Biden, who are all polling within one point of each other at around 11%.

While it may appear to be a runaway for Sanders, The Hill notes that things are still wide open as nearly half of the New Hampshire voters polled last week were undecided heading into the contest.

What's at stake?

In 2016, Sanders' decisive win in New Hampshire jump-started his campaign. Four years later, the senator will be looking for a similarly decisive victory. But this time, a big win in the first-in-the-nation primary could carry through to an eventual nomination.

Sanders is now competing with Biden for front-runner status in the race, as recent polling shows him with a growing lead over Biden nationally. A Sanders win in New Hampshire, coupled with a weak finish from Biden, could spell doom for the Biden campaign and catapult Sanders to a firm position at the top.

But threatening Sanders' path to victory is Buttigieg, who walked away from Iowa with more delegates than the progressive candidate. Another strong showing from the former mayor will certainly hurt Sanders' chances of running away with the nomination. Similarly, Sen. Warren, who shares ideological views with Sanders, could put a damper on his momentum with a strong finish.

Biden has all but given up on the state, with polling showing his chances of finishing anywhere near the top are slim. His campaign is reportedly planning to skip town ahead of the results and shuttle off to the next contest in South Carolina, a move that Warren swiftly criticized. Earlier on Tuesday, Biden assured reporters half-heartedly that his campaign is "still mildly hopeful" about New Hampshire.

Does it even matter?

Pundits across the political spectrum indicated that President Trump was the clear winner following the Democratic catastrophe in Iowa last week, and regardless of results, the same may be true following the primary in New Hampshire.

Writing for the American Spectator, Amber Athey made this just point, alluding to Trump's packed rally in New Hampshire Monday night, on the eve of the primary election.

"The near-overflowing arena at Southern New Hampshire University stood in stark contrast to the sparsely attended campaign trail events put on just around the corner by Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and the rest of the Democratic field," Athey wrote. "Bernie Sanders may have a rabid online fan base, but how many would camp out all night and day in the frigid February snow for a chance to see their political hero? Warren couldn't even get hungry diners to glance up from their meals long enough to ask for their vote."

Trump was sure to hammer home this same point during the rally.

"We have more in this arena and outside this arena than all of the other candidates, meaning the Democrats, put together and multiplied by five," blasted Trump. "We have never had an empty seat from the day your future First Lady and I came down the escalator."

One last thing…
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