In this edition: The Sanders voters who want a new outsider, the continuing debacle of Iowa, and the muddled polling picture in New Hampshire.

Whenever you are reading this, I am probably parked behind a snowbank, and this is The Trailer.

KEENE, N.H. — At the start of her town halls, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii asks for a show of hands. Who's a member of the Democratic Party? Who's a Republican? Who's an independent? On Wednesday night at Keene State College, nearly 100 voters showed up, and Democrats were in the minority.

“What we're seeing here tonight is a reflection of where the country is,” Gabbard said. “It's not about sectioning off with our own party or our own tribe.”

Gabbard, who has sued Hillary Clinton for defamation and disappeared from the Democrats' debate stage, has been campaigning in New Hampshire for months. Andrew Yang, who held his own Keene town hall Wednesday just half a mile from Gabbard, has finally refocused on the state after a disappointing Iowa finish. 

Both of them count support from the anti-establishment, throw-'em-all-out voters who backed Bernie Sanders four years ago. And in the wake of the Iowa caucuses, in which Joe Biden collapsed into fourth place, they are less worried than ever about splitting up that vote and letting an “establishment” candidate through.

“Biden?” said Brandy Langfield, 42, as she waited to get a photograph with Gabbard on Wednesday. “He's a joke. No, no, I'm not worried about him at all.”

From the beginning of this campaign, Sanders strategists argued that they could win the early states with just a third of the vote in a divided field. Some of the senator's voters from 2016 would migrate to other candidates, and that would be fine — he did not need to win 60 percent of the vote again, and he would pull in new voters that the 2016 campaign did not have time to reach.

That worked in Iowa, where Sanders leads the popular vote and where Gabbard, who had backed Sanders for president in 2016, and Yang pulled a combined 5.2 percent of caucus-goers in the first round. But in polling here, Sanders has never matched the numbers from his 2016 race. A Monmouth poll released Thursday afternoon found Sanders leading the field by four points, a number that rose slightly when voters were asked to nix Gabbard and Yang from their choices.

“I think a lot of us thought four years ago that Bernie represented the outsider and, in a binary choice, he obviously did,” said Steve Marchand, a former mayor of Portsmouth who is advising Yang. “He was pushing that Overton window on issues in ways that a lot of us respected. But I think the 'freedom dividend' is a much better way to fight inequality than, like, guaranteed jobs or figuring out Medicare-for-all. The way we beat Donald Trump is an outsider who has his act together.”

Most New Hampshire voters are independents, and in 2016, most of them backed Sanders, the longest-serving independent in Congress. Sanders only narrowly defeated Clinton among registered Democrats, winning them by four points, but 40 percent of primary voters were independents, and they backed Sanders by a 3-to-1 margin.

The binary choice, Clinton or Sanders, produced a massive and unwieldy coalition. Sanders won self-identified “moderate” voters by 20 points, bigger than his 16-point margin with “somewhat liberal” voters. He won voters who had at least one gun in their home by 40 points; he won voters who did not by just 16 points. Some of that was a function of a Second Amendment-friendly record that Sanders has since softened, and some of it was a function of anti-Clinton voters looking for a safe harbor. (An overwhelming 89 percent of primary voters called Sanders “honest and trustworthy,” compared with 45 percent who said so of Clinton.)

Those voters have more choices now, and some have migrated. Susan Wilkinson, 62, said at an earlier Gabbard town hall that she was volunteering 20 hours a week for the Hawaii congresswoman and had ruled out a vote for Sanders, for whom she'd spent 40 hours per week volunteering in 2016.

“When I first met her, I had the same feeling I had when I first met Jimmy Carter, because she's honest,” Wilkinson said of Gabbard. “I respect Bernie, but I never met him once. Tulsi knows who her volunteers are. She pays attention. She's real. And he never once issued any statement about the rigging of the election in 2016.”

Gabbard, who polls in the mid-single digits in New Hampshire, now has the most heterodox coalition in the state. She runs strongest with conservatives, who can vote in the Democratic primary so long as they register as “unaffiliated,” not Republicans or Libertarians. She’s a frequent presence on Fox News, and her lawsuit against Clinton helps build that audience further. 

In Keene, that led to Gabbard taking a question from a conservative gun-shop owner who was angry that Congress had not gotten restitution for people killed by guns run in the Justice Department's “Fast and Furious” operation, a story that led to outrage on the right in 2012.

“I would like to talk to you after this and maybe get a little bit more background on your situation,” Gabbard said.

It meant that Vermin Supreme, a perennial stunt candidate now running for the Libertarian Party’s nomination, could show up and ask a two-part question: Had she read the Libertarian platform, and what would she name the free pony that he would give her upon winning the presidency?

“There are Libertarians finding common ground with our foreign policy, and how we will end regime change wars,” Gabbard said. “I have no idea what I’d name my pony. I’d start with a dog first.”

“There will be prosthetics to help that dog act as a pony,” Supreme said.

In previous years, such as 2008 and 2012, many anti-establishment voters sent a message by supporting Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. In 2016, many of them went for Sanders. On the margins, Gabbard and Yang are problems for Sanders, and his supporters have begun warning more urgently that young, alienated voters who want an anti-establishment candidate would waste their vote if they gave it to a candidate polling in single digits. 

Yang tweeted Thursday, saying, "It sure looks like Bernie won Iowa" and that he was excited to compete in New Hampshire next week.

“If you are in a later state that does not have this arcane, moronic caucus system, where you just show up to your polling booth … if you're still planning to vote for Andrew Yang, do not do that,” said Virgil Texas, a co-host of the socialist podcast Chapo Trap House, on its post-Iowa episode. The podcast held live shows for Sanders canvassers in Iowa and will do so again here. “Andrew Yang will not win. He is a loser. This is proven.”

But some of Sanders’s former voters don’t want to come back. In Keene, Chris Alden, 72, said that she had backed Sanders for president before, but that her son had introduced her to Yang via podcasts, and she’d been impressed.

“I feel like Bernie sort of has tunnel vision about one or two issues,” she said. “Yang has answers for everything. I just like him, you know?”

Reading list

“Biden and Warren shift strategies after Iowa ‘gut punch,’ " by Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Matt Viser, Michael Scherer and Annie Linskey

How the bronze and no-prize medalists from the first caucuses are adjusting.

Inside the senator from Utah's decision to become the only senator to vote to remove a president of his party.

A campaign blitz that benefited from Democratic panic.

How an innovation that Sanders fought for may give him a technical win. (He has already won the popular vote in Iowa.)

How 4chan trolls helped blow up the Iowa caucuses.

A pressure group's revenge.

A candidate liked or loved by many in his party is struggling.

Dems in disarray

MANCHESTER, N.H. — At 1 p.m. in a campaign office tucked between a tanning salon and a Chinese restaurant, Bernie Sanders declared victory in the Iowa caucuses. Sixty-five hours had passed since the doors closed in the first caucus state, and only 97 percent of precincts had been reported by the Iowa Democratic Party.

That was enough.

“Our campaign is winning the popular, initial vote by some 6,000 votes,” Sanders said. "[We are] holding a press conference that should have occurred three nights ago in Des Moines, Iowa, but for the inability of the Iowa Democratic Party to count votes in a timely fashion.”

While Sanders was speaking, the Democratic National Committee called for a recanvass of Iowa's votes. Before Sanders had finished, Iowa Democrats had pushed back. So what's actually happening?

Bernie Sanders got the most votes in Iowa. In any state but the Hawkeye State, Sanders would probably have been able to declare victory Monday night. There are just four caucus states now, and three of them simply count the votes of people who show up. Iowa had never done so until this year, instead releasing “state delegate equivalents” based on head counts of the people who'd caucuses, something that, thanks to rounding and gaps in rural and urban turnout, did not reflect the popular vote.

The IDP was prodded, successfully, to release three sets of numbers this year: The preferences of voters as they first caucus, the preferences after they had realigned (with supporters of candidates with less than 15 percent support moving over to the caucus corners of candidates with more than 15 percent), and the aforementioned SDEs. With 172,510 votes counted, Sanders led with that first set of voters by 5,954; he led with the second set of voters by 2,518. (Nearly 4,000 voters did not stick around for the second round.)

Pete Buttigieg may have gotten the most delegates in Iowa. Democrats count up the SDEs to determine how many delegates candidates will get at the party's national convention. By turning out more voters in rural areas, and by overperforming in suburbs, Buttigieg maximized his SDEs, and may end up with more of them than Sanders when every precinct is counted. 

But let's be honest: Iowa's 41 delegates are not what candidates are really fighting over. They are fighting to win or place as high as possible. Buttigieg, even if he narrowly lost to Sanders, muscled past every other candidate in the “moderate lane,” something that would give any candidate a bounce.

We don't have the final count yet. The party has bungled every part of this process and left the counts in several precincts incomplete, while campaigns are raising questions about the accuracy of the finished count. At stake is perhaps just one delegate, a bonus that will go to whoever won the SDE count statewide. That is unknown, in part, because another innovation this year was the “satellite caucus,” a system for eligible voters who either could not get back to Iowa, or Iowans who were working during the 7 p.m. Central time caucuses. Sanders won some of these caucuses by landslides, but the party was unclear on how delegates from them would be tabulated.

Reports that Buttigieg’s campaign had questioned how the delegates from satellite caucuses would be calculated angered Sanders supporters, who had celebrated his strong results with caucuses designed for nonwhite voters.

“Reporting that Pete Buttigieg’s campaign called for a recanvass of satellite caucuses cast doubt on whether he believes that all people — especially people of color, young people, Spanish speakers, and other members of the multiracial working class — deserve an equal voice,” a spokesmen for People Power for Bernie, a coalition of pro-Sanders groups, said on Thursday.


Ad watch

Elizabeth Warren, “Elizabeth Understands.” This ad, now running in New Hampshire, is the sort of spot that Warren's rivals had been worried about during her rise. Along with Joe Biden, she's one of the only Democrats who can run footage of Barack Obama showering her with praise in the White House's Rose Garden.

Unite the Country, “Empathy.” This digital spot from the pro-Biden super PAC was cut within hours of last night's CNN town hall, focusing on Biden's agreed-upon best moment: an answer to a question about his stutter that dovetailed into his message of empathy for fellow Americans. “We've got to heal this country,” Biden says. “We didn't use to do … we didn't used to be like this. Some were, but we weren't as a nation. We weren't like this.” The ad has no extra commentary, just the clip.

Poll watch

New Hampshire primary (Suffolk, 500 registered voters)

Bernie Sanders: 25% (+1)
Pete Buttigieg: 19% (+4)
Joe Biden: 12% (-3)
Elizabeth Warren: 11% (+1)
Amy Klobuchar: 6% (-)
Tulsi Gabbard: 5% (-)
Tom Steyer: 4% (-1)
Andrew Yang: 2% (-1)

The pre-Iowa numbers in this two-day tracker are starting to fall off, and as they do, Buttigieg is consolidating some of the voters who had been shopping around for a more moderate candidate than Sanders. The senator from Vermont does not get the same sort of bounce here as Buttigieg and is starting from a lower base than he did in 2016. But in that primary, Suffolk badly underrated support for Sanders, with a similar poll from this period (post-Iowa, pre-debate) putting him nine points over Hillary Clinton. He would win by 22 points.

New Hampshire primary (Monmouth, 777 voters)

Bernie Sanders: 24% (+6)
Pete Buttigieg: 20% (-)
Joe Biden: 17% (-2)
Elizabeth Warren: 13% (-2)
Amy Klobuchar: 9% (+3)
Tulsi Gabbard: 4% (-)
Andrew Yang: 4% (+1)
Tom Steyer: 3% (-1)
Michael F. Bennet 1% (-1)

Like Suffolk, this pollster badly overestimated Biden's support in its final look at Iowa. Unlike Suffolk, it models a few different scenarios for turnout. Assuming high turnout from lower-propensity voters, Sanders leads by six points; assuming a more “traditional” turnout, from voters who show up for every primary, Sanders leads Buttigieg by just one point, and the top four Democrats all cross the 15 percent threshold for delegates. (As in Iowa, delegates are assigned according to the statewide vote and the vote in individual congressional districts.) Both polls reinforce that the “moderate” lane remains larger than the lane for left-wing candidates. The combined support for Buttigieg, Biden, Klobuchar and Bennet was 47 percent last month and 46 percent now; combined support for Sanders, Warren and Gabbard has risen from 37 percent to 41 percent.

Money watch

Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg both released fresh fundraising details Thursday, with Buttigieg claiming fresh momentum after Iowa. In an email to donors, Buttigieg's campaign said it had raised $2.73 million and attracted 22,636 donors since caucus night, “with an average of $42.” The average was important: Unlike Sanders, Buttigieg meets with large donors, and he held a trio of fundraising events between Wednesday afternoon and his Thursday afternoon return to New Hampshire. The Sanders campaign announced that it had raised $25 million in January, with about 219,000 donations from people who had not given before.

In the states

Every North Carolina primary will be held March 3. Organizations allied with both major parties are now intervening in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, where party-favored candidate Cal Cunningham took a while to build a fundraising operation. Last month, the Democratic-aligned super PAC VoteVets went on the air with a biographical spot, saying Cunningham had always “answered the call to serve” and making heavy use of the former state senator's service in the U.S. Army Reserves.

A new PAC, Faith and Power, is now running ads that portray state Sen. Erica Smith as the race's truest “progressive.” The ads praise Smith for having “the courage to vote for Medicare-for-all” and call her the “number one supporter of the Green New Deal.” As first reported by CNN, the PAC's key players have ties to Republicans, and none to Democrats.

But the play isn't subtle: Republicans view Smith as a weak candidate in a general election, who can win a primary if distracted Democratic voters hear her name more than Cunningham's — and if an electorate that's usually one-third African American is motivated by the fact that Smith is black. Smith has raised just $213,445 for her campaign so far and has less than $100,000 left to spend; Cunningham has raised $3.1 million and started 2020 with $1.7 million in the bank. 

Debate season

Despite the best efforts of Iowa Democrats, we've got some clarity on the state's delegate math — and that means we know who else is likely to make the ninth Democratic debate in Nevada.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, five Democrats are assured to win delegates out of Iowa. Four of them have crossed the 15 percent threshold statewide and in several congressional districts, according to counts released by the party and calculated by media observers: Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. One of them, Amy Klobuchar, eked past the 15 percent threshold in just one area, the 4th Congressional District, represented by Republican Rep. Steve King. 

The Nevada debate will keep candidates offstage unless they've either hit 10 percent in four national polls or 12 percent in two polls of Nevada or South Carolina, or secured at least one delegate to the national convention. Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, who have qualified for tomorrow's debate, did not come close to getting a delegate out of Iowa and have not come close to 10 percent in national polling. They have until Feb. 18 to hit the poll margin in either Nevada or South Carolina, which have only rarely gotten DNC-approved polls.

Can it get more complicated? Of course it can. While we know that the five aforementioned candidates got enough votes to win delegates, DNC rules state that they will use the official delegate count “as reported and calculated by the Iowa Democratic Party.” When will the party officially release that? It has 12 days.

Candidate tracker

Thursday was a fairly light day for the Democratic candidates, and after tonight's CNN-sponsored town halls, many of them will lay low before the pre-primary debate. 

Bernie Sanders. He'll speak at a Politics & Eggs breakfast at St. Anselm, the host of the debate that night.

Michael F. Bennet. He'll hold a town hall in Laconia, after picking up his first endorsement from a member of the House: Rep. Jared Golden, a freshman from Maine who flipped the state's reddest, most rural district in 2018.

Tulsi Gabbard. She'll hold a town hall in Somersworth.

Deval Patrick. He'll hold a town hall at the University of New Hampshire.

Mike Bloomberg. He'll deliver remarks on “support for veterans and military families” in Norfolk, Va.

New Hampshire history

New Hampshire is proud of its primary and describes a history that began more than 100 years ago. It's a bit inflated; the primary as we now know it, with multiple candidates actually on the ground to meet voters, began in 1952. Estes Kefauver, a senator from Tennessee who'd won national attention for investigating organized crime, waged a long-shot bid against an unpopular President Harry S. Truman, and key to his strategy was New Hampshire.

By modern standards the primary was almost absurdly brief. Kefauver opened his first office Feb. 22 for a vote that would be held 30 days later. But 1952 was the first year when New Hampshire would allow candidates' names to appear on the ballot, Truman dithered over whether to put his on, and Kefauver saw an opportunity to campaign while Truman stayed in Washington.

Kefauver's gambit was covered respectfully, but not as an event of major political importance. “New Hampshire delegates will not swing much weight in next summer's nominating conventions [and] may even have trouble landing hotel reservations when they reach Chicago,” the New York Times reported a few weeks before the primary. The Kefauver campaign was gimmicky, heading to every part of the state, and the Truman campaign barely existed. It was still a surprise when he won, 19,800 votes to 15,927 for Truman. That was enough for Truman to quit running for reelection within a few weeks, and that's why we're all still here.


... one day until the seventh Democratic debate 
... five days until the New Hampshire primary 
... 16 days until the Nevada caucuses 
... 23 days until the South Carolina primary 
... 26 days until Super Tuesday