Why you should care
Because the stakes just got higher in New Hampshire, where Bernie Sanders is showing serious strength.
As the early Iowa caucus results started rolling in, call-and-answer chants of “Hari Hari” and “Shakti Devi” filled a dimly lit yoga studio in the tiny New Hampshire town of Keene more than a thousand miles away. To the beat of drums, cymbals and an acoustic guitar, 15 people gathered to chant and “send our positive intentions out to the world,” as the organizer described the event. Their stated goal? To perform kirtan hymns (and some old-fashioned outreach) in the hopes of greater voter turnout for the presidential election. But despite that nondenominational nod, almost everyone here had a more specific hope — that Sen. Bernie Sanders could soon be their Democratic nominee for president. “What I was hoping this event could do is help people act from their heart,” says Terry Landis, a 65-year-old independent who played the harmonium.
But as the night moved on, there was no clear response to their prayers as severe problems with the Iowa Democratic Party’s reporting process led to massive delays in releasing caucus results. The debate threatens to overshadow whoever will eventually be declared the winner — particularly as the news cycle moves on to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address and expected impeachment acquittal — meaning that the New Hampshire stakes just got higher.
Sanders entered the night as the favorite to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, according to “The Forecast,” OZY’s exclusive prediction model that breaks down polls, demographics, fundraising figures, historical trends and more to give you the best statistics in the business. The projections are brought to you in partnership with the Washington-based Republican technology and data firm 0ptimus and its sister company, Decision Desk HQ (check out our methodology here). Nationally, Joe Biden remains the favorite to take the nomination.
Once [Sanders has] got a strong foothold, a lot of people will drop in line.
Sarah Seaver, Bernie Sanders supporter
But can the iconoclastic democratic socialist ride early-state success into the White House? Even as they waited for the Iowa results, Sanders’ supporters here believed so, saying his momentum could cause a chain reaction. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who felt they were undecided, were waiting to see who the strongest candidate is. If that’s going on here, it’s going on elsewhere,” says Sarah Seaver, a 38-year-old antique shop owner from Dublin, New Hampshire, who has canvassed for the campaign as a volunteer. “Once he’s got a strong foothold, a lot of people will drop in line.”
She is far from the only one who has caught the Bern in New Hampshire. Mackenzie Murphy, a 22-year-old graduate student, went from attending events for former millennial candidate Eric Swalwell to working for the 78-year-old Sanders. “I was fortunate enough to graduate college debt-free; however, many of my fellow classmates are graduating college with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt,” she says, praising his plans to eliminate student loans and make college tuition-free.
There is still plenty of energy in the state for others. Madelyne Majors, who originally arrived in New Hampshire as an AmeriCorps volunteer before deciding to stay in the state to campaign for Elizabeth Warren, says, “I’m not as big of a fan of Biden or Buttigieg,” adding that Sanders is her second choice. Regardless, her plan is to support whoever wins the nomination in the general election.
Back in Keene, a pair of Sanders supporters waited for hours, trading the yoga studio for a nearby bar. “Tonight’s event is supposed to be a balm,” says Daniel Moore, the Sanders volunteer who organized the kirtan gathering.
Meanwhile in Iowa, presidential candidates gave speeches about a caucus with no results, and party officials tried to reassure voters that the delay wasn’t from “a hack or an intrusion.” But in New Hampshire — where the primary voting system will at least be easier to sort through on Feb. 11 than a caucus — things were almost quiet: a rare calm before the storm, perhaps. Don’t expect it to last. Candidates were due to arrive as early as 4 am Tuesday from Des Moines to pursue their presidential dreams — without even knowing how they fared the night before.