Bernie Sanders has narrowly won New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary, solidifying his front-runner status in the nominating race and dealing a setback to moderate rival Joe Biden.
Moderate Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, finished a close second on Tuesday after edging out Sanders in last week’s chaotic and disputed first nominating contest in Iowa.
Both campaigns have asked for a partial recanvass of Iowa results.
Sanders, a progressive senator from neighbouring Vermont, prevailed after fending off attacks from rivals who warned his far-left views would lead the party to defeat in the November 3 election against Donald Trump.
“This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” Sanders told supporters.
They booed when Buttigieg’s post-primary speech was shown on screens and chanted “Wall Street Pete”.
It was also a good night for Senator Amy Klobuchar, who rode a wave of momentum from a strong debate on Friday into third place.
Biden, the former vice president who was once front-runner in the race, limped into fifth. It was his second consecutive poor finish after placing fourth in Iowa.
He is certain to face growing questions about his campaign’s viability and ability to consolidate moderate support.
Biden fared poorly in two previous runs for president before winning election in 2008 as Barack Obama’s No. 2.
He hopes to stay afloat until February 29 in South Carolina and a series of contests in other Southern states on Super Tuesday on March 3, where his support among African Americans will be a strength.
Without strong showings there, his race could be over.
“It ain’t over, man. It’s just getting started,” he told supporters in South Carolina.
US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a progressive ally of Sanders and considered a favourite in New Hampshire three months ago, also had a bad night.
She finished fourth and also will face questions about her continued viability.
For Sanders, who won New Hampshire in 2016 with 60 per cent of the vote against eventual nominee Hillary Clinton, the results offered momentum but not the overwhelming win he had hoped for given his history there.
Exit polls showed he only won about two-thirds of his 2016 primary supporters.
The results began to thin the field of Democrats seeking the right to take on Trump in November.
Businessman Andrew Yang and Senator Michael Bennet dropped out after it became clear they would finish well out of the running, while reports say former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick will fold on Wednesday.
Democratic voters in New Hampshire chose a candidate from a ballot with 33 names, including those who dropped out weeks ago.
But it did not include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who is not competing in any states before the 14 Super Tuesday primaries on March 3.
Bloomberg has been rising in polls, aided by his massive personal spending on campaign advertising and is betting on doing well in bigger states such as California and Texas.
In New Hampshire, turnout was approaching the record 287,000 who cast ballots in the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary, when the battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton energized the party.
Up next will be the February 22 caucuses in Nevada, which has a large Latino population, and the February 29 primary in South Carolina, which has a large African-American population.