It’s understandable that Buttigieg and Sanders supporters roll their eyes at some of the fawning coverage. But Klobuchar’s final sprint was, by historical standards, impressive. Most candidates don’t pull off a late polling surge such as Klobuchar’s, and few manage to beat their Election Day polls by as much as she did. Klobuchar might still be a long shot in the race for the nomination. But she deserves real credit for her strong finish in New Hampshire — and for some voters, a second look.
Klobuchar’s leap forward started late in the election season. A week before the primary, she was in the high single digits in New Hampshire according to major polling aggregates. In the week before the election, most candidates in that sort of position don’t surge enormously. Even in the famously tumultuous 2012 Republican Iowa caucuses, only one candidate moved more than five points in the last week of campaigning.
But Klobuchar managed to move the needle in a real way. She posted a solid debate performance in New Hampshire on Feb. 7, and she jumped from about 8 percent in the polls to roughly 12 percent. At the same time, Biden and Warren started to lose speed: All three of them ended up around 12 percent in the polls heading into the election.
But on election night, Klobuchar was the only one of them to over-perform; our election simulator reveals just how much she beat expectations.
The Post Opinions Simulator simulates the primary contests 10,000 times to see how, given their polling and fundraising performance, the candidates might do come Election Day. This graphic charts out how likely each outcome was for Klobuchar based on what we knew about those factors as voters headed out to cast their ballots. The curve is high over the likely possibilities — the most frequent simulated outcome suggested that Klobuchar might slightly under-perform that polling average and win roughly 10 percent of the vote — on the horizontal axis and lower over less likely results, for example, 30 percent of the vote.
This graphic essentially says that the share of the vote Klobuchar actually won was thinkable, but that over-performances such as hers don’t come along every day. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of her chief rivals fail to beat their polls by this amount at any point in the next two contests. Taken together, Klobuchar’s late surge in the polls and her election-night performance constitute a genuine surprise: something that seemed possible but highly unlikely only a week ago.
Klobuchar is already benefiting from her New Hampshire showing — she’s raking in the cash and earning some positive headlines at a time when some of her primary targets, such as Warren and Biden, look weaker than they have been in months. But Klobufans shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. The next two contests will be decided by electorates that are much more racially diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire, and it’s not clear whether Klobuchar will be able to expand her coalition of supporters fast enough to rack up the delegates. Among other things, she still has yet to win a state and convince voters of her regional, much less national, electability.
Klobuchar’s path to the nomination is long and filled with massive, arguably insurmountable obstacles. But on Tuesday, she earned the chance to keep trying to follow it.