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Can Buttigieg Secure the Centrist Lane in New Hampshire?

Nashua, New Hampshire - Roughly 1,800 people are standing outside of a Middle School on a side street in Nashua on Sunday morning, attempting to capture a glimpse of the Midwestern curiosity that has taken New Hampshire by surprise in recent days: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. 
Hundreds of Mayor Pete supporters packed a Nashua
Middle School gymnasium two days before the Primary

The event started nearly an hour later than scheduled, due to the Mayor making a concerted effort to meet with those who were turned away because the gymnasium reached capacity. Many of those present, including myself, ventured to Nashua from out of state to hear Buttigieg's pitch. 

Maybe sixty percent of the crowd will be able to fit into the Middle School's gymnasium to hear the Mayor's uplifting, Obamaesque inspired speech that is enthusiastically received by the white, surprisingly young crowd. His rehearsed applause lines do the trick almost as well as his off the cuff quips. 

However, despite the apparent momentum that is on Mayor Pete's side, one obvious question remains: although the Buttigieg Surge is real, is it enough to topple Vermont Senator Bernie Sander's extensive ground game in New Hampshire? 

The short answer is no

Mayor Pete faces his crowd at the SNHU arena
during a massive multi-candidate rally hosted by
the state party in Manchester
Senator Sanders, who has increasingly become a not so subtle target of Mayor Pete in recent days, won New Hampshire by twenty-two percentage points in 2016 over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As the Senator next door, he is a known and valued political commodity. 

What is happening in New Hampshire, however, is a climatic showdown between the race's three moderate candidates - Mayor Pete, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Vice-President Joe Biden - who combined have nearly double the support of Sanders, if the polls are accurate

Mayor Pete, the somewhat winner of Iowa's chaotic caucuses, is riding a wave of moderate support into the independent minded First In The Nation Primary in a similar fashion as Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio did four years prior. Unlike Rubio, Buttigieg is not expected to implode in epic fashion. 

Thus, with Sander's victory essentially secured in the Granite State, the battle for second and third place is becoming the marquee event to watch. 

Although Mayor Buttigieg is surging both on his own merit and because Vice-President Biden essentially wrote off the state during last week's debate, Senator Klobuchar is also rapidly gaining ground (in the polls, at least) as a result of her stellar performance in that same debate. 

Among the questions that might be answered Tuesday night are: Who will secure the centrist lane? Will either Buttigieg or Klobuchar be able to dethrone Biden from his South Carolina firewall if they exceed expectations? Will Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren place fifth? Will New Hampshire solidify Sanders as the Progressive candidate? 

These questions were far from irrelevant as Mayor Pete concluded his rally in Nashua by reminding voters on Sunday that his campaign is a chance to not only "Turn the page" on national politics, but Democratic politics as a whole, and although he is far from being the anointed centrist to oppose Sanders in 2020, he is definitely acting the part. 

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