MANCHESTER, N.H. – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders edged former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday, a closer-than-expected finish that leaves the race for the Democratic presidential nomination still muddled.
Sanders topped Buttigieg by about a point when the Associated Press declared him the winner just before midnight. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar came in a surprising third, a finish that built on her well-received performance at Friday's debate in New Hampshire.
That could keep the race for the Democratic nominee more unsettled than it often is after the first two contests.Five candidates have at least six national delegates, lead by Buttigieg and Sanders.
Sanders' victory was not by the 22-point margin that jolted the race against eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, when he played the role of upstart challenger.
But he didn't stumble either, winning a neighboring state over a large field after leading in almost every poll over the past two months as his rival for the progressive wing of the party – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren – slowly faded.
“At this point of the campaign, we are taking on billionaires and we are taking on candidates who are funded by billionaires, but we are going to win because we have the agenda that speaks to the working people of this country," Sanders said to the crowd at his election night party shortly after 11 p.m.
Warren and former vice president Joe Biden ended up fourth and fifth, respectively, disappointing finishes for one-time leading candidates.
Analysis:Joe Biden insists he still has a path to the nomination. Others have trouble seeing it.
Inside Sanders' election night party
Sanders, who won by assembling a coalition on the left anchored by young voters, finished first in the state's largest cities including Manchester, Nashua and Concord. Buttigieg performed best in the southeast part of the state. They both won townships on New Hampshire's Connecticut River Valley that border Sanders' home Vermont.
Sanders arrived on stage at his election party, held in a basketball gym on the campus of Southern New Hampshire University, to chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie” from supporters with John Lennon’s “Power to the People” blasting.
“It’s on to Nevada. It’s on to South Carolina,” Sanders said, concluding his brief remarks. “It’s on to win the Democratic nomination, and together, I have no doubt that we will defeat Donald Trump.”
A few hours before, loud cheers erupted from Sanders supporters when CNN showed him in first place before final results were in early Tuesday night.
The crowd, many waving “Bernie” signs, counted down, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” as polls closed. They burst into cheers throughout the night as votes trickled in and Sanders’ lead maintained.
“I believe in the movement, I believe in the cause and I believe it’s time to take America back by the people and for the people,” said Scott Dakota, a 55-year-old musician and composer from Keene, New Hampshire, positioned directly in front of the stage where Sanders would be speaking.
“No recent Democrat nor Republican recent candidate has made sense to me until Bernie Sanders came along,” said Dakota, a campaign volunteer who opened his house as a canvassing station. “Bernie Sanders brought me back into politics.”