Democratic primary pivots to unpredictable New Hampshire

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., arrives at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, after traveling from Des Moines, Iowa following the Iowa caucus. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

NASHUA, N.H. – New Hampshire rarely takes its cues from Iowa. And this time, there aren't clear cues anyway.

The Democratic presidential hopefuls descended on the small New England state on Tuesday, fresh off overnight flights, full of caffeine and without official results from Iowa. That didn't stop many of them from offering some form of a victorious message — and raising the stakes on the importance of New Hampshire.

“Everything we know is extremely encouraging,” Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday after being endorsed by Jim Donchess, the mayor of Nashua. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign released its own caucus results with a claim of winning, wasn't expected to greet voters in the state until the evening. Andrew Yang held a middle-of-the-night rally at the airport upon landing in the state, while Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden planned midday events.

New Hampshire had largely taken a back seat to Iowa through January, but the state is poised to take on a more important role following Iowa's delayed, chaotic results.

“New Hampshire becomes, I think, more important because we don't know what Iowa's going to come out with,” said Bill Shaheen, a Democratic National Committeeman from the state who is backing Biden.

The state's Feb. 11 contest is a primary, which is far simpler than a caucus; the election is also run by state and local governments, not the political parties, like Iowa. A primary works like a general election, with people going into the voting booth and selecting one candidate. New Hampshire uses paper ballots, with some places counting them electronically.

“Even if those systems failed, New Hampshire would still have an election and would report results at the end of the night," Deputy Secretary of State Dave Scanlan said Tuesday morning.

The state's political class has long liked to characterize New Hampshire as more influential than Iowa, even as Iowa has had a better track record of picking the eventual nominee in recent Democratic contests. Not since 2004 have New Hampshire's independent-minded voters followed Iowa's lead in an open Democratic presidential primary.