US Politics: Biden’s loss could prove to be Bloomberg’s gain – The big story from the New Hampshire Democratic primary overnight was another poor performance by once-front runner Joe Biden; he managed to perform even worse than his Iowa caucus 4th place finish, coming in 5th and winning zero new delegates. While the left-leaning Bernie Sanders came first, he was neck and neck with moderate Pete Buttigieg, and both won the same amount of delegates (9) on around a quarter of the vote each. As the results came in, the betting market probabilities on Biden’s nomination fell to a new low of just 7%, down sharply from a peak of 43% just a month ago. Biden’s national opinion polling has also fallen significantly following the poor Iowa performance, with the latest RealClearPolitics average at 19.2%, down from as high as 41% in the middle of last year – and the momentum clearly against him (polling tends to lag betting market probabilities).
What does Biden’s poor performance mean for the race? While it is still early days in the primaries – with less than 2% of the 3,979 delegates pledged up until now – some trends have been set in motion that will be hard to reverse, and it looks likely to be a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ weaker front-runners like Biden, Warren and Klobuchar withdraw from the contest. The timing of this so-called ‘winnowing’ of candidates will be crucial in shaping the race going forward, with some front-runners benefiting more than others when a particular candidate withdraws. For instance, Warren pulling out would benefit Sanders (although her support is already rather low now), while Klobuchar and/or Biden pulling out would benefit other moderates such as Bloomberg and Buttigieg. As of now, betting markets still have Sanders with the highest probability of winning at 47%, but Bloomberg has shot up to second place at 25%, and Buttigieg is in third place at 14% – the latter two both increasing at the expense of Biden. Of these, Bloomberg is probably the candidate to watch; he has been concentrating his resources on the Super Tuesday contests, and the polling momentum has been in his favour in recent weeks. The next primaries take place in Nevada (22 February; 36 delegates), South Carolina (29 February; 54 delegates), and with Super Tuesday taking place on 3 March (1,344 delegates). (Bill Diviney)