MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The campaign manager for Bernie Sanders says New Hampshire is a critical presidential primary state he expects Sanders to win, but he's leaving room for a scenario in which Sanders falls short.

Faiz Shakir said Thursday that he doesn't "like the language of must-win," though he does believe it is an important early voting state.

But he says he still believes Sanders could win the Democratic nomination without taking New Hampshire, though he acknowledges that the path "gets harder" if Sanders doesn't.

Sanders represents neighboring Vermont in the U.S. Senate. He carried New Hampshire by 22 points in the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, which Hillary Clinton went on to clinch.

Some Sanders endorsers have recently downplayed the importance of a victory in the New Hampshire primary.

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