Bernie Sanders held off Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire on Tuesday, slowing the former mayor’s charge and asserting himself as the tentative frontrunner in a still-muddled Democratic primary field.

Amy Klobuchar sparked to life with a third-place finish, while two one-time favorites — Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden — lagged far behind. The returns reflected a surprising degree of momentum for Klobuchar, who is presenting herself as a moderate alternative to Buttigieg and Biden — but who before New Hampshire plodded forward largely as an afterthought.

Still, the night belonged to Sanders.

The Vermont senator had 26.2 percent of the Democratic primary vote when three networks called the race with 76 percent of precincts reporting. Buttigieg had 24.1 percent, and Klobuchar had 19.6 percent.

Warren was at 9.4 percent and Biden at 8.4 percent — both below the threshold required to win delegates in a devastating night for both top-tier contenders.

At a Sanders campaign party, supporters were waiting for later results, but cheering early returns. And at Klobuchar’s campaign headquarters, there was no waiting at all. As results filtered into her event and she ticked up to third place, the campaign cut the music and cranked the TV volume.

The crowd chanted “Let’s go Amy” and “All of us.”

“Hello, America, I’m Amy Klobuchar and I will beat Donald Trump,” Klobuchar said when she took the podium. “My heart is full tonight.”

Shortly after the polls closed, meanwhile, two long-shot candidates, Andrew Yang and Sen. Michael Bennet, dropped out. Yang, the quirky entrepreneur and political novice, had vastly exceeded expectations in the primary, but he was counting on a strong finish in New Hampshire that did not materialize.

Going into the night, Sanders was not only preparing for a widely expected victory in New Hampshire, but eclipsing Biden for the first time nationally in a Morning Consult poll.

Biden was just desperate to escape.

Following a dismal showing in Iowa and with low expectations here, the former vice president planned to leave New Hampshire on Tuesday night for more favorable ground in South Carolina. Rather than Biden, it was a surging Pete Buttigieg whose momentum Sanders was seeking to blunt.

“We have a chance to do really, really well here tonight,” Sanders said at a polling place in Manchester. “We have an agenda that speaks to the needs of working families all across this country who in many cases feel that Washington has turned its back on them.”

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