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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Live on the New Hampshire campaign trail

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at the 'Politics

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at the 'Politics and Eggs' breakfast at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anslem College in Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday. Credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/JUSTIN LANE

Mark Chiusano is in New Hampshire, as the 2020 Democratic hopefuls change venues for the season’s first primary. 

We’ll be moving among the candidates and reporting back here on and on Instagram, trying to get a sense of who will have the strength to make it to the New York primary and beyond. 


The Sanders offensive - 2/7/20

CONCORD, N.H. – Facing a surging Pete Buttigieg in the nation’s first 2020 primary on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders went on the offensive at a “Politics & Eggs” breakfast event at Saint Anselm College on Friday. 

The Vermont senator read headlines from the likes of Forbes, The Hill, and The Washington Post that suggested that the fresh-faced former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has fundraised from big donors. 

He even paired Buttigieg with Michael Bloomberg, who Sanders said is “spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the election.” 

“There is something wrong with that,” Sanders noted. 

The early morning broadside came as New Hampshire polls find Buttigieg just a hair behind Sanders ahead of Tuesday’s vote, after the two finished on top in the Iowa caucus debacle. 

The Sanders camp has criticized Buttigieg in the past, fundraising off the mayor’s infamous “wine cave” appearance, a point also made by fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

But that didn’t seem to do much for Warren, who in a town hall on Thursday kept things merrily focused on the GOP and financial corruption (one questioner suggested she’d be a good motivational speaker). And the stakes are higher now that actual voting is underway. 

There has been plenty of intraparty fighting in New Hampshire, with former Vice President Joe Biden taking aim at both Sanders and Buttigieg. 

Sanders has sparred with Biden in the past but kept things positive on Friday regarding his former colleague who finished far behind in Iowa and has been largely MIA in New Hampshire. 

Describing “most” of the Democratic candidates as his friends, he mentioned by name Biden, Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. 

Sanders said their differences “pale” compared to theirs with President Donald Trump.

At least until the debate on Friday night. 

Mayor Pete's quick break - 2/6/20

Pete Buttigieg, who emerged from the Iowa caucuses as a leading contender, ducked off the snowy New Hampshire campaign trail on Wednesday to do some fundraising in New York. 

At an event in Manhattan’s Flatiron district Buttigieg spoke for about 15 minutes, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former spokesman Eric Phillips, who was at the event.  Buttigieg did another fundraiser Thursday morning and some network TV shows before returning to New Hampshire for an afternoon event.

Buttigieg didn’t speak about New York, though, and appears to have stuck to his stump speech, using lines about the day that Trump leaves office and the appropriateness of candidates being called “hopefuls.”

“He must have been dog tired after the last few days,” Phillips said in an email, but the other mayor still “energized the crowd.”

And the Iowa meltdown has set off a new round of questions about why the Hawkeye State and New Hampshire get to select presidential contenders first.  The Boston Globe on Wednesday called for the end of the tradition, even though the paper benefits from being a regional powerbroker when candidates came to town.

“More important than wielding our influence on a single small state’s primary, we believe, is to call for the end of an antiquated system that gives outsized influence in choosing presidents to two states that, demographically, more resemble 19th-century America than they do the America of today,” the paper’s editorial says.

The Globe cited a lack of diversity as one reason to change the system, and suggested choosing some more representative states to go first, or using a rotating set of primary states. However, here in New Hampshire defenders say at least it’s not a caucus. It’s a small state that candidates can crisscross without being billionaires, voters can have direct one on one access to the candidates, and it’s also a swing state testing candidates on general election themes. Dante Scala, professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, added that the state has a political culture that is open to women participating, given that 3 out of its 4 federal representatives are women. 

Still, New York State Democratic Party leader Jay Jacobs agrees that a change is in order.

“I have been fighting at the DNC for years now to end caucuses, change caucuses and end Iowa’s status as ‘first in the nation,’” Jacobs writes in an email. “So, this debacle will do nothing but fuel that  argument, on a variety of levels, as we move forward.”

He added that anything that shakes up the schedule status quo “has the potential of boosting New York’s impact on the process and the eventual outcome.” 

Making due without the candidates - 2/5/20

It’s a relatively quiet afternoon in New Hampshire because the senators on the trail headed back to DC after their morning events. The Senate’s impeachment trial called. 

That means surrogates and campaign-led events for some of the leading candidates, like a meet-and-greet with actress Ashley Judd in a Goffstown coffee shop. 

Judd was there for Elizabeth Warren, extolling the Massachusetts senator’s humble background. 

Some of the couple dozen attendees didn’t mind the absence of the candidate. “The woman’s down to earth,” said 74-year-old Perry Soroko.

A 'serious and solemn day' for Bernie - 2/5/20

President Donald Trump was in the air even before Bernie Sanders launched into his stump speech about inequality and the grip of money on politics.

At a Wednesday event in Derry, New Hampshire, Sanders said he was wearing a tie because he was about to get on a plane and go cast his vote in the Senate impeachment trial.

“Today is a serious and solemn day for the country,”  Sanders said before addressing the concern that stop-Bernie Democrats have about his intensely loyal followers and the Vermont senator’s impact on the 2020 general election.

No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, “we will be united around the winner,” he told the crowd of more than a hundred.

But some in the crowd were more suspicious of the party establishment, as with one questioner who asked Sanders about Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez having “stacked the DNC rules committee” with people who aren’t Sanders supporters. The questioner worried about a “repeat of 2016.”

Sanders said the eventual nominee would have “enormous power” over committees like that and quickly moved on.

Mayor Pete's time to shine - 2/5/20

Like other candidates hustling from campaign stop to campaign stop, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg recycles some of the same uplifting lines, like one about how wasn’t it funny that the media calls 2020 contenders “hopefuls”: “How fitting,” Buttigieg said in a line that played well in both Laconia and Concord on Tuesday, “because running for office is an act of hope.” 

In debates, some of this well-polished rhetoric can come off a little stiff. But in person the effect is a bit different. Not confined to a podium while talking, Buttigieg moves around the stage, gesturing and generally looking more comfortable. It seemed to resonate with the New Hampshire audiences. Though maybe the mayor was just bathing in his Iowa bump. 

Facetime with the candidates - 2/4/20

The degree to which New Hampshire voters expect to and succeed in seeing a good chunk of the presidential contenders is considerable. One voter in Laconia told The Point he had personally asked questions of Buttigieg, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker. Another voter, Kim Hurd, remembered meeting 2016 Republican longshot Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Hurd, 53, had been sitting on the ground while waiting for the start of a local parade and she started to get up to shake the senator’s hand when he approached. 
He said not to stand up, “you pay too many taxes in this town.” 

“We do,” Hurd says, though she wasn’t exactly sure what Graham meant. 

He's with Yang - 2/4/20

Andrew Crane, 25, was with businessman Andrew Yang from pretty much the beginning.

“I’ve got my guy,” he said outside a Yang event Tuesday at a Laconia community college.

The Gilmanton resident appreciates Yang’s focus on issues like automation. Crane, an entertainer who makes YouTube content among other creative projects, says that he has already seen the effect of artificial intelligence sometimes taking the place of human users in gaming videos. 

It’s the first time Crane has gotten this invested in politics, and it’s unclear where his interest would shift if Yang loses. Crane says he wrote in a candidate in the 2016 general election. If Yang doesn’t win he says he would do more research into Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Yang on the trail - 2/4/20

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is not the only candidate who distances himself from Hillary Clinton on the trail.

At a community college in Laconia, New Hampshire, in a county that Clinton lost decisively in 2016, businessman Andrew Yang referenced the old Democratic campaign line from the last presidential cycle, “America is already great.”  

“That response did not work for many Americans,” Yang said.

He later added a subtle knock of Clinton’s controversial paid speaking gigs, promising that as president, he wouldn’t take paid speaking fees “for the rest of my life.”

It was just the beginning of a string of town halls Yang has planned for the week, as he hopes to do better than Clinton in the Granite State’s first primary on Tuesday.

On the road - 2/3/20

New Hampshire is a unique venue in American politics, the kind of place where if you’re a state senator and it’s your birthday, you can expect to get a few calls from thirsty candidates, says one New Hampshire Democratic strategist. 

But here’s another truism that may have more impact on the results next week: candidates from neighboring states tend to do well in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. 

Winners include John Kerry in 2004, Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Paul Tsongas over Bill Clinton in 1992. Massachusetts legend Sen. Ted Kennedy came in second in 1980, but that was against sitting president Jimmy Carter. 

This bodes well for Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren of Vermont and Massachusetts, respectively. They have strong ties to the Granite State already — Sanders has regularly spoken at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO’s Labor Day breakfast, and Warren has campaigned for NH candidates across her border. And the media market bleed-over from Boston and Burlington means that voters hear about them when they turn on their TVs. 

Then there’s the fact that neighboring candidates can mobilize their supporters at home to come over for a day to knock on doors. 

“The next-door neighbors have a phenomenal advantage in the final week,” says former U.S. Ambassador Terry Shumaker, a co-chair of Bill Clinton’s NH campaigns and current supporter of former Vice President Joe Biden. 

That all may be a point in the progressives’ favor, though it’s unclear how much it lifts former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who’s a local but also a low-polling late entry into the race. 

Columnist Mark Chiusano on the road in New Hampshire.