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What Our Forecast Says About The New Hampshire Primary At The District Level

According to early estimates out of Iowa, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg won 14 pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention, Sen. Bernie Sanders won 12, Sen. Elizabeth Warren won eight, former Vice President Joe Biden won six and Sen. Amy Klobuchar won one. But how did Klobuchar snag a national delegate when her share of the statewide vote was 12 percent,1 below the delegate threshold of 15 percent? It’s because she got more than 15 percent in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, and around two-thirds of Iowa’s delegates are awarded based on results at the district level, not the statewide level.

The same is true in New Hampshire. Of the Granite State’s 24 pledged delegates, eight are divvied up among candidates based on their statewide vote shares, eight are allotted based on their vote shares in the 1st Congressional District and eight are allocated based on their vote shares in the 2nd Congressional District. The FiveThirtyEight primary forecast model thus estimates the number of pledged delegates each candidate will win at both the state and the district level.

Right now, those estimates are pretty much identical in the two districts. That’s because our forecast uses demographic differences to predict how districts might vote differently from each other — and, well, there are few demographic differences between New Hampshire’s districts. For example, both are 91 percent non-Hispanic white, have similar density and religiosity scores and have median household incomes of just over $70,000 a year. So just as it does statewide, our New Hampshire forecast thinks Sanders will pick up most of the delegates in each congressional district, with Buttigieg the only other candidate poised to capture a significant number.

Despite the districts’ overall similarities, the political geography of New Hampshire will remain important for interpreting the election results tonight. The 1st Congressional District covers eastern New Hampshire, from the Seacoast to the White Mountains. It juts inland enough to include Manchester, the state’s most populous city. The presence of many well-to-do suburbs around Manchester and along the Massachusetts border makes the 1st District, by a hair, New Hampshire’s more highly educated and wealthier half. Accordingly, while the district still voted for Sanders by 20 points in 2016, establishment-aligned former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still did slightly better here than in the state as a whole.

Look for Buttigieg to do well in suburbs like Bedford, one of the few localities Clinton carried in 2016. Specifically, the area from Manchester to the Atlantic Ocean is full of high-income suburbs that usually vote Republican in general elections — practically tailor-made for Buttigieg and stated goal of winning over “future former Republicans.” However, look for Sanders to do well in population centers like Manchester and college towns like Durham, just as he did in Iowa.

As of Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. Eastern, our model is forecasting Sanders to net an average of 3.6 pledged delegates in the 1st District, while Buttigieg receives an average of 2.7. No other candidate is poised to get more than one.

The westerly 2nd Congressional District stretches all the way from the Massachusetts border to New Hampshire’s northern tip. It also contains a handful of those affluent Boston suburbs (e.g., Windham, another town that voted for Clinton in 2016) that might go for Buttigieg, but in general it is more rural and working-class than the 1st District. New Hampshire’s rural areas could be a wild card; Sanders romped there in 2016 (particularly in the liberal towns along the border with Vermont — Sanders’s home state, obviously), but Buttigieg won most of the rural counties in Iowa. Nashua and Concord, the district’s two biggest cities, also could be important battleground areas.

In 2016, the 2nd District voted for Sanders over Clinton by around 25 points, and he is investing in it again in 2020: He has nine field offices in the district, two more than Buttigieg lists on his website (Warren has opened 10 offices in the 2nd). Our forecast thinks Sanders will win 3.5 delegates here, on average; Buttigieg 2.7; and no other candidate gets more than one.

In other words, our model is expecting New Hampshire’s two districts to vote similarly, which should make the delegate math simple. But Iowa taught us that sometimes we should expect the unexpected. Tune into our live blog tonight, where we’ll be tracking the results as they come in.

Joshua Darr contributed research.


  1. Going by the state delegate equivalents measure.

Nathaniel Rakich is a senior editor and senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.

Anna Wiederkehr is a senior visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight.