Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won the New Hampshire primary in such an underwhelming fashion — the second less-than-impressive outing in what should have been two of his easiest states — that it bears consideration as to whether he is actually best positioned to win the race.

Turnout in New Hampshire did not significantly increase from 2016 to 2020, even though there was no competitive Republican primary to draw independent voters. Sanders has twice now failed to produce a promised wave of voters. Without such an influx of voters, his electability argument crumbles. He must either appeal to a greater share of Democrats and independents than other candidates (which currently is not remotely the case), or he must bring in a flood of new voters (which also is not happening). In short, his ceiling is still stuck around 25 percent, just as it has been from the onset of the race.

You could sense from the election-night speeches that the other candidates are done treating Sanders with kid gloves. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) declared that “the fight between factions in our party has taking a sharp turn in recent weeks ... with supporters of some candidates shouting curses at other Democratic candidates.” She warned that the tactics might work “if you are willing to burn down the party to be the last man standing.” Yes, that is Sanders, who is often accused of fomenting that attitude.

Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg also had a few pointed words, implicitly going after Sanders for pursuing an all-or-nothing approach. “We have been told by some that you must either be for revolution, or you are for the status quo,” Buttigieg said, adding that "most Americans don’t see where they fit in that polarized vision.” On health care, he declared: “Americans want the freedom to make choices for themselves on health care or on any other issue, not to have Washington decide for them. And a politics of ‘my way or the highway’ is a road to reelecting Donald Trump. Vulnerable Americans do not have the luxury of pursuing ideological purity over an inclusive victory.”

Given that the progressive wing (Sanders plus Warren) managed to get about 35 percent of the vote on Tuesday while the moderates totaled more than 52 percent, it is clear that the majority of the party is not eager to enter a political suicide pact with a self-described socialist promising a revolution.

As the front-runner, Sanders should also expect to take fire for breaking his promise to release all of his medical records. He is 78 and had a heart attack in October. The party has every right to know precisely the state of his health. If he wins the nomination without full disclosure, be prepared for the Trump campaign (which portrayed Hillary Clinton at death’s door when she came down with the flu) to portray Sanders with one foot in the grave. This is certainly a valid electability issue.

Democrats should not take Sanders lightly, but neither should he be portrayed as the favorite, let alone the shoo-in. The prognosticators have based their predictions on a slew of inaccurate suppositions (e.g. his vote totals would be higher, Buttigieg wouldn’t win Iowa). Perhaps it is time to watch the game as it plays out, understanding that this remains the most uncertain Democratic primary in recent memory.

Read more: