MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Bernard Sanders won New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary for the second time, strengthening his grip on the far-left mantle in the race and giving him a burst of momentum heading into the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina primary this month.
The race was closer in 2020 than in 2016, but Mr. Sanders fended off a late charge by former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who narrowly won the Iowa caucuses last week.
With 88% of the vote counted, Mr. Sanders had captured 26%, followed by Mr. Buttigieg with 24.3% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota with 19.8%.
CBS and NBC projected a Sanders victory around 11 p.m.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden appeared headed for disappointing fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively, with single-digit percentages.
They also were projected to lose out on winning any of the state’s 24 delegates, which are distributed proportionately to those who finish above 15% either statewide or in a congressional district.
“Let me just say tonight that this victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump!” Mr. Sanders told his supporters here in Manchester. “With victories behind us — [the] popular vote in Iowa, and the victory here tonight — we are going to Nevada, we are going to South Carolina. We’re gonna win those states as well!”
Mr. Sanders, a senator from neighboring Vermont, was riding a wave of support from young and liberal voters after falling just shy of capturing the top spot in the Iowa caucuses last week.
A victory in New Hampshire was another noteworthy achievement for the 78-year-old, whose campaign appeared to be in trouble when he suffered a heart attack on the trail four months ago. Since then, though, he easily raised more money than his rivals, steadily rose in the polls and proved Tuesday that his better-than-expected showing in the nomination race four years ago wasn’t a fluke.
“The reason we are going to win is that we are putting together an unprecedented multi-generational, multi-racial, political movement, and this is a movement from coast to coast which is demanding that we finally have an economy and a government that works for all of us — not wealthy campaign contributors!” Mr. Sanders said.
The race in this state in many ways was for supremacy in the center-left lane between Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Klobuchar.
Ms. Klobuchar was the surprise of the night, putting in a strong showing after a widely praised debate performance.
“Hello, America. I’m Amy Klobuchar, and I will beat Donald Trump,” the Minnesotan said at her election night party in Concord. “While there are still ballots left to count, we have beaten the odds every step of the way.”
“Donald Trump’s worst nightmare is that the people in the middle — the people who have had enough of the name-calling and the mudslinging have someone to vote for in November,” she said.
Mr. Buttigieg, meanwhile, continued his rise from being a little-known Midwestern mayor to a serious contender for the White House, showing that his message of hope and unity has broad, cross-generational appeal.
“Thanks to you, a campaign that some said shouldn’t be here at all has shown that we are here to stay,” Mr. Buttigieg said.
“So many of you chose to meet a new era of challenge with a new generation of leadership,” he said. “So many of you decided that a middle-class mayor and a veteran from the industrial Midwest was the right choice to take on this president not in spite of that experience but because of it.”
Exit polls showed that Ms. Klobuchar was the top choice of seniors and of self-identified moderate voters and that Mr. Buttigieg was the second choice among both of those groups, which comprised a bigger slice of the primary electorate it did than four years ago.
Exit polls also found 62% of voters wanted to nominate someone who can beat Mr. Trump, compared with 34% who wanted their ideological avatar.
A candidate needs to win 1,991 delegates to win the party’s presidential nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention.
The race now moves from predominantly white Iowa and New Hampshire into states with more racially diverse electorates, especially in the Democratic Party — the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22 and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29.
On March 3, a jackpot of delegates is up for grabs when 14 states — including California, North Carolina and Texas — hold “Super Tuesday” nominating contests.
That is where former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is skipping the first four contests, will be waiting with his billionaire pockets.
Among the top contenders, Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren, who also is from neighboring Massachusetts, were once again left picking up the pieces from a disappointing result that raised fresh doubts about their ability to stage a Bill Clinton-esque comeback.
Mr. Clinton in 1992 was the only Democrat in the past 40 years to clinch the party’s nomination after failing to win either Iowa or New Hampshire, although Iowa wasn’t heavily contested by anybody because one of the candidates was home-state Sen. Tom Harkin.
Mr. Biden signaled Monday that his presidential aspirations rest with voters in South Carolina, which has long been seen as the 77-year-old’s firewall in the Democratic presidential race.
Mr. Biden didn’t even stick around to celebrate the final tallies in New Hampshire. Instead, he hopped a plane to the Palmetto State, where he appeared at a “South Carolina Launch Party” with his wife, Jill, and Rep. Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“It ain’t over, man. We are just getting started,” Mr. Biden said in Columbia, emphasizing that most Hispanic and black voters have not had a chance to weigh in on the race. “I have said many times you can’t be the Democrat nominee, you can’t win a general election as a Democrat unless you have overwhelming support from black and brown voters.”
He added, “It is a natural fact.”
The poor showing in New Hampshire came a day after a Quinnipiac national poll showed his support among black voters is sliding.
Ms. Warren, meanwhile, maintained Tuesday night that her campaign is built for the long haul.
Some of the lesser-known candidates signaled the end is near for their underdog bids.
Indeed, former nonprofit executive Andrew Yang and Sen. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado pulled the plug on their underdog campaigns.
Ms. Warren’s campaign had telegraphed that a disappointing night could be coming.
Roger Lau, Ms. Warren’s campaign manager, issued a memo before the polls closed that essentially said the race for the nomination is a marathon and not a sprint.
“Our campaign is no stranger to being written off or counted out early,” he said. “But here’s what we do know: Warren has proven the doubters wrong before.”
Mr. Sanders carried New Hampshire by 22 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and came into the primary this cycle with more money and a more robust ground game.
Since December, polls showed him as the clear front-runner. His popularity in the Granite State was on display Monday when 7,500 people turned out for a raucous “Bernie Beats Trump” rally that featured Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and the rock band The Strokes.
Kevin Boardman, a 28-year-old social worker, said he supported Mr. Sanders because “I believe in his progressive policies.
“Despite the naysayers, I think they are possible to execute,” Mr. Boardman said. “I also think to beat someone like Trump, we can’t have a moderate. We have to have someone who has a little bit of fire and passion, and Bernie, I think, has that to go after Trump.”
Walter Freeman, a teacher from Nashua, voted for Mr. Sanders even though he was eyeing Mr. Bloomberg, who was not on the ballot, down the road.
Mr. Freeman said Mr. Sanders’ ability to raise money from small donors is a sign of a “tremendous amount of grassroots support.”
The 59-year-old also said there is a clear difference between 2016 and 2020.
“Four years of Donald Trump definitely changes the game,” he said. “To be honest with you, I think I’d vote for a raw vegetable rather than Donald Trump.”
Mr. Buttigieg’s backers cited his intelligence and unifying message.
“I think people are so sick and tired of being sick and tired that they’re ready for something refreshing, and he’s it,” said the Rev. Shayna Appel, 59, from Milford. “He’s just different.”
Mr. Buttigieg has his work cut out for him in the coming contests according to polls, which show he has struggled to make inroads with minority voters in Nevada and in South Carolina, where the Democratic primary electorate is 60% black.
• Seth McLaughlin reported from Washington.