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With 85 days to go, N.H. locks in #fitn ballot

Voters have less than three months to decide which of the 50 candidates they will select on New Hampshire's presidential primary ballot.

Fifty presidential candidates—33 Democrats and 17 Republicans—met Friday’s filing deadline to have their names printed on the ballot for our first-in-the-nation primary, which is less than three months away.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who is tasked with maintaining the Granite State’s principal position in the presidential selection process, told WMUR’s John DiStaso on Friday that he will likely schedule the vote for Feb. 11. Although he doesn’t see any other state threatening New Hampshire’s status this cycle, Gardner said he wants to remain cautious. A final decision will come by Thanksgiving, he said.

With the candidate list locked in and the primary expected in just 85 days, it’s go time for campaigns to flex their ground-game muscles. How they spend the next 12 weeks will influence who wins, who outperforms expectations, and who falls flat.

The Democratic Candidates

There are 33 candidates on the ballot in New Hampshire for the Democratic presidential nomination :

4 are within striking distance of claiming the lead. Although a majority of likely Democratic voters say they have yet to decide with certainty which candidate they will select in New Hampshire’s primary, these candidates have been polling in the double-digits, well ahead of the pack (UNH, Quinnipiac):

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont,
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts,
  • former Vice President Joe Biden, and
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

13 are contenders looking to outperform expectations. Demonstrating the viability of their campaigns is the definition of success in the Granite State for these candidates:

  • Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado,
  • Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey,
  • Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana,
  • former HUD Secretary Julián Castro,
  • former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland,
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii,
  • Sen. Kamala Harris of California,
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota,
  • former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts,
  • Admiral Joe Sestak,
  • businessman Tom Steyer,
  • author Marianne Williamson, and
  • businessman Andrew Yang.
  • 16 others also paid $1,000 for their names to appear on the ballot. That’s in addition to one candidate who withdrew the week after he filed. The full list of candidates is published on the Secretary of State’s website.

By the way, NHPR’s Dan Tuohy has a nice explainer on our primary’s relatively low barrier to entry.

Surprise: Patrick’s Late Entry

The big surprise on the Democratic side was former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s decision to run. Despite organizational and financial obstacles, Patrick—who served two terms as Massachusetts’ first black governor—aims to disrupt the Democratic field, with a moderate message and his close ties to former President Barack Obama, as Hunter Woodall, Julie Pace, and Steve Peoples reported for the Associated Press.

Patrick offered subtle jabs at Warren and Sanders over their more liberal ideas when he filed his paperwork in person at Gardner’s office in Concord, but his campaign could be especially threatening to Biden and Buttigieg, who have been courting black voters, as Paul Steinhauser reported for the Concord Monitor.

Patrick has already demonstrated his ability to “win over white voters in an overwhelmingly white state,” said Democratic strategist Doug Thornell, according to an Associated Press report by Errin Haines. Patrick may be better positioned, Thornell added, than the other two viable black candidates (i.e., Booker and Harris) to gain momentum in New Hampshire ahead of the vote in South Carolina, where black voters represent a majority of the Democratic electorate.

Bypassing N.H. Entirely

There are two other noteworthy Democrats whose names won’t appear on New Hampshire’s ballot: Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Florida, and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City.

Messam’s absence appears to confirm that his campaign is effectively over. His third-quarter fundraising totaled just $5, according to Federal Election Commission data released in October. A month earlier, a BuzzFeed News report said Messam’s campaign “appears to be in near-total disarray.”

Bloomberg’s absence seems to reflect a strategic move. He’s expected to bypass the first four states—Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina—to focus instead on states with Super Tuesday primaries, on March 3, as Tal Axelrod reported for The Hill. Bloomberg’s name is already on the ballot in some of those states.

The Republican Candidates

There are 17 candidates on the ballot in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential primary:

  • 1 has a nearly insurmountable lead: the incumbent. President Donald Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to Concord to file the necessary paperwork. (Pence stood between New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro and former Trump campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, who is considering a bid for U.S. Senate, while he signed the documents in Gardner’s office.) An overwhelming majority, 86%, of likely voters in New Hampshire’s GOP primary say they would vote for the president, according to a UNH poll released last month.

2 are mounting extreme long-shot challenges. They’re polling in the single digits, and a majority of Republican voters say they have made up their minds with certainty, leaving little room for underdogs like these two to gain ground:

  • former Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts and
  • former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois.
  • 14 others also paid $1,000 for their names to appear on the ballot: The full list of candidates is published on the Secretary of State’s website.

Surprise: Sanford Bows Out

The big surprise on the Republican side came from former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Like his fellow presidential candidates, Sanford spoke with the press when he traveled to Concord this month. Rather than cast an optimistic vision for his electoral odds, however, Sanford told reporters he was suspending his bid for the White House.

As he stood outside the statehouse, Sanford described his campaign as a "casualty of the impeachment process," as Grace Segers and Nicole Sgangas reported for CBS News.  Sanford had been hailed by some as perhaps Trump’s most viable challenger.

This Week’s #DemDebate

The fifth televised debate of this cycle’s Democratic primary will come Wednesday, when the 10 candidates who qualified are expected to take the stage 9-11 p.m. in Atlanta. The debate will air on MSNBC and will be co-hosted by The Washington Post.

The following candidates qualified for the debate, according to the Post: Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren, Yang, Gabbard, and Steyer.