I don’t think anyone worth paying attention to has a clear idea of who will win the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary. However, history suggests that the same candidate will not win both.
Whether because Iowa caucus goers are quirky, or because New Hampshire voters don’t like to say “ditto,” or through sheer coincidence, the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, when seriously contested, usually produce two different winners.
In this century, think of Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders (2016), Ted Cruz-Donald Trump (2016), Rick Santorum-Mitt Romney (2012), Mike Huckabee-John McCain (2008), Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton (2008), and George Bush-John McCain (2000). Some footnotes are in order because Clinton and Sanders were basically tied in 2016, as were Santorum and Romney in 2012. But you get the idea.
The latest Iowa poll, from Focus on Rural America, has Biden clearly ahead. He polls at 24 percent. Elizabeth Warren is next at 18 percent, followed by Pete Buttigieg at 16 and Sanders at 14. A poll taken a week earlier by Monmouth yielded similar results if you flip Warren and Sanders.
In New Hampshire, Sanders has a healthy lead in two of the three most recent polls. WBUR’s poll, the most recent of the three, puts Sanders at 29 percent. That’s 12 points better than second place Buttigieg. Biden is third with only 14 percent, less than half of Sanders’s total.
The results of a WHDH/Emerson poll are similar, but slightly less favorable to Sanders. However, a poll by Boston Globe/Suffolk gives Sanders only a statistically insignificant 16-15 lead over Biden. Buttigieg and Warren lag at 12 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
It’s tempting to say that the only way Sanders loses in New Hampshire is if he wins in Iowa. But to say so would be premature and flippant.
If there are two different winners, then it will behoove a candidate to be one of them. That’s especially true of Buttigieg and Warren, for whom the post-New Hampshire calendar isn’t optimal. Indeed, if the current poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire hold up, it could mean doom for Warren. This may explain her recent behavior.
Biden has a more favorable post-New Hampshire calendar. However, he’s considered the frontrunner and would lose that status, and possibly lots of potential funding, if he can’t win in either Iowa or New Hampshire.
If Biden manages to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’s probably as good as nominated, I think. If Sanders wins in both states, he’s the new frontrunner.
But I’m guessing we will see two different winners. And, for what it’s worth, Biden doesn’t strike me as the kind of candidate Iowa caucus goers will be inclined to bless, although maybe in this fractured field he can eke out first place.