- Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner after strong performances in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
- Sanders won in New Hampshire and is virtually tie in the disputed Iowa caucuses with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.
- Sanders is at the top of national polls and far ahead of the 2020 field in terms of fundraising. He raised a whopping $US25 million in January.
- The Vermont senator is dominating the 2020 field in fundraising, but there’s a long way to go and many delegates still up for grabs.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont became the 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner on Tuesday night with an important win in the New Hampshire primary. In just four years, he’s gone from being a long-shot candidate to leading a broad field of Democratic candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, overcoming numerous naysayers along the way.
At the same time, Sanders has pulled the Democratic Party increasingly to the left and defined the terms of the conversation in the 2020 race.
After Sanders hopped in the race last February, he led the pack among declared candidates for a time until former Vice President Joe Biden launched his bid in April. Sanders’ campaign began to plateau over the summer, and questions were raised about whether he would continue to run after a heart attack in October.
But the Vermont senator rebounded rapidly, surging in the polls, dominating the field in fundraising, and nabbing key progressive endorsements as he headed into the new year.
Though the results of the Iowa caucuses were still being debated even Wednesday after the Iowa Democratic Party bungled the contest, Sanders appeared to be in a virtual tie for first with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Sanders also won the popular vote in Iowa.
Since 1972, no candidate has gone on to win a major-party nomination without coming in the top two in either Iowa or New Hampshire. By Tuesday, Sanders had passed any hurdle that might have posed.
While Buttigieg had strong showings in both races, also coming in the top two and gaining a slight lead in the overall delegate count, he is far behind in recent national polls and has polled poorly with black voters. In short, there are signs the former South Bend mayor could struggle in coming primary contests, and he lacks Sanders’ long experience in national politics.
“Tonight New Hampshire sent a message that working people are ready for a political revolution in this country,” Sanders said in his victory speech Tuesday night. “This is what it will take to defeat Donald Trump.”
“This victory isn’t about me; it’s about us. Tonight is about what our supporters, volunteers and grassroots donors built in New Hampshire,” he added.
With the septuagenarian senator’s status at the top of the field cemented, Shaun King, a surrogate for Sanders, tweeted, “Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic Primary.”
Much could change in the coming months, particularly after Super Tuesday in early March when there are 16 contests in a single day. The vast majority of delegates, or the people who will ultimately be sent to the Democratic convention in July to vote for the nominee, are still up for grabs.
Early frontrunners do not always sustain their lead, and Sanders has stiff competition. He’s also a self-declared democratic socialist, a label that could become a liability in a country where approximately one-in-five people continue to view socialism as a threat to the US.
Sanders has many critics in the establishment wing of the Democratic Party, which has repeatedly labelled him as unelectable and too radical.
James Carville, a veteran Democratic strategist, recently suggested to MSNBC that the party would essentially become a “cult” if Sanders were to win the nomination.
“There’s a certain part of the Democratic Party that wants us to be a cult,” Carville said in a viral rant to MSNBC, though he later told Vox he’d vote for Sanders if the Vermont senator came out on top. Hillary Clinton, who beat Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has excoriated her ex-opponent multiple times in recent months.
“He was in Congress for years,” Clinton said of Sanders in a documentary that premiered in January. “He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.”
In spite of his critics in the party, Sanders is off to a flying start in the 2020 Democratic primary season, and after roughly a year in the race he can be dubbed the frontrunner on multiple levels.
Peter Daou, a former adviser to Clinton who since 2016 has shifted from forcefully defending her to touting the Vermont senator, alluded to the doubters Sanders had proved wrong thus far in a tweet Tuesday. “The incessant punditry trying to minimise what #Bernie has achieved this cycle is getting tiresome,” he said. “I can’t think of a SINGLE mainstream pundit or polling expert who predicted he would be the frontrunner at this stage, in a field this massive.”
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