Amy Klobuchar had a strong debate performance last week in New Hampshire. Although I had written her off after her lackluster showing in Iowa, it seemed to me that, with the excellent debate and endorsements from three leading New Hampshire newspapers, Klobuchar “might make a surprisingly good run in New Hampshire.” However, I concluded that “a top three finish seems out of reach.”
Today, as New Hampshire votes, a top three finish seems within reach. In fact, the RCP poll average has Klobuchar in a statistical tie for third place with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. And two of the three most recent New Hampshire polls have her ahead of these two. (The one survey that doesn’t, includes some respondents polled before the debate.)
Klobuchar’s surge probably has as much to do with the weakness of Biden and Warren as it does with her own strengths. But I’m sure Klobuchar will be ecstatic if she finishes “in the money,” regardless of the reason why.
What would it mean if Klobuchar were to finish ahead of Biden and Warren? It might mean the end of Warren’s campaign. It’s not easy to see a road back for her if she finishes fourth or fifth in a neighboring state and finishes second out of the two female candidates.
Warren is already lagging when it comes to raising money. If she runs “out of the money” in New Hampshire, she risks running out of the money she needs to go forward with an effective campaign.
A fourth or fifth place finish in New Hampshire might mean that the end is near for Biden. He has already downplayed his chances in New Hampshire, viewing South Carolina as his fire wall. Thus, I don’t expect New Hampshire to deliver a knockout blow.
But if New Hampshire becomes the second state in a row where Biden fails to gain more than half of the support polls once showed him enjoying, what confidence can he have that something similar won’t happen in South Carolina, where his lead has already diminished? More importantly, what confidence can potential financial contributors have in his candidacy?
What would a third place finish mean for Klobuchar? It would mean she’s not a no-hoper, as I described her after the Iowa caucuses. It would mean that she will live to compete with Pete Buttigieg in the non-hard left, white voter lane. It would mean that the two of them (and maybe Biden and/or Bloomberg) would split those votes. Sanders, by contrast, would probably have the hard left lane largely to himself and might be poised to do pretty well in the black voter lane..
Therefore, Trump supporters who want to see Sanders nominated on the theory that he can’t possibly beat Trump should perhaps be hoping that Klobuchar has a good night.