By James Duffy, political blogger

After a razor thin victory for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, the race for the Democratic nomination is more intense than anyone expected. The once inevitable Clinton is now fighting for her political life with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gaining momentum every day. The New Hampshire primaries are the next stop for the candidates, and the results in the Granite State could have a large impact on the race moving forward.

Unlike the Republicans, the field has already shrunk for the Democrats. With Martin O’Malley bowing out of the race, just Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders remain. Sanders turned heads by virtually tying Clinton in Iowa, and opened the week with a 20-point lead in New Hampshire. Since then, his momentum has subsided somewhat as Clinton closed the gap in New Hampshire, but Sanders seems like he has the state locked down.

For Sanders, the polls need to stay strong. He needs a commanding win to keep riding this momentum that he’s been developing for months. If Clinton whittles his lead to single digits, it effectively ruins his surge, but if he maintains the lead he has or expands on it, he could potentially continue to gain national traction. He still has an upward battle in front of him, but a decisive victory in New Hampshire would be a solid start.

His dominant poll numbers aren’t indicative of the whole nation, however. While he is climbing in the national polls, it’s unlikely he’ll ever hold the kind of lead he does in New Hampshire. His fired-up voting base is made up of mostly white liberals, which is a large percentage of the state’s population, according to a poll conducted by the Boston Globe. Of the 500 New Hampshire residents polled, 456 were white and 212 described themselves as liberal instead of moderate, conservative or undecided.. He’ll need to vastly expand his base coming out of New Hampshire, especially in the minority vote.

Clinton simply needs to hold on. While a win seems highly unlikely, cutting it close would be a huge moral victory – something her campaign has been lacking. Sanders is now expected to dominate in New Hampshire shattering that idea would serve a huge blow to him. It’s important to note that sometimes perceptions and expectations matter more than results, like we saw in Iowa but in Sanders’ favor.

Even if Clinton gets blown out of the water, which she’s working hard to prevent, she can still salvage the election as a whole. Nevada and South Carolina will then become the next major focus for Clinton, where she can feasibly win easily and put a halt to Sanders’ momentum before Super Tuesday. The latest polls from RCP, while outdated, do show her well ahead. In Nevada Clinton leads by 20 points, and in South Carolina her lead is 30.

While the Democratic primary is more black and white with just two candidates in the field, the impact can still be felt nationwide, either if Sanders can run away with it and expand his base, or if Clinton can fight for a narrow loss and halt Bernie’s fire.

To read about the Republican side of the race, click here.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons.