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Bernie Sanders Is Leading Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. That Means Almost Nothing, According to History.

In case there was any doubt: The Democratic presidential primary is officially a race. Bernie Sanders, whose West Coast tour has drawn crowds approaching 30,000, now leads Hillary Clinton 44-37 among likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire, according to a new Boston Herald poll. That's compared to Clinton's 44-8 advantage in a Herald poll in March.

This is big news for Sanders. As New Hampshire hosts the first open primary of the cycle, winning the state can boost underdogs, and losing it can derail contenders. But history shows that winning the state means very little when it comes to winning the nomination.

A number of candidates who lost in the Granite State landed atop the party's ticket—including the last three presidents. Take a look:

  • Barack Obama lost to Hillary Clinton in 2008.
  • George W. Bush lost to Senator John McCain in 2000.
  • Bob Dole lost to talk-radio personality Pat Buchanan in 1996.
  • Bill Clinton lost to former Massachusetts state Senator Paul Tsongas in 1992.
  • Walter Mondale lost to Colorado Senator Gary Hart in 1984.
  • George McGovern lost to Maine Senator Edward Muskie in 1972.
  • Barry Goldwater lost to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr,—a write-in candidate—in 1964. 
  • In 1952 and 1956, Adlai Stevenson lost to Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, who in 1956 would become his running mate.

Don't be surprised if Sanders ends up taking New Hampshire. As local Rob Greene reported in the New Republic in June—when Clinton's lead was just 41-31—Sanders's "aversion to bullshit resonates with the no-nonsense Yankees." "Politically, we are an ornery lot," a Nashua resident told Greene. "We relish the opportunity to challenge the media’s tired parade of the same political elite. We have always hated being told who to vote for.”

But New Hampshirites are a unique lot in this respect. They're also 94.2 percent white, and minority voters will be crucial to winning in 2016. Sanders, who hails from a similarly white state and has had a prickly relationship with Black Lives Matter, trails Clinton overwhelmingly in that department.