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How the Sanders and Kasich campaigns see the fight for N.H.

February 8, 2016 at 6:35 PM EDT
The 2016 campaigns have poured money and time into the race in New Hampshire, and now the time has come for voters to pick their favorites. Judy Woodruff talks strategy and the competition with Tad Devine, senior advisor to Bernie Sanders' campaign, and Thomas Rath, senior national advisor to Gov. John Kasich's campaign.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In recent weeks, we have been hearing directly from the campaigns.

Tonight, we check in with two of them, both with a lot on the line in New Hampshire.

First up, Tad Devine. He’s a senior adviser to Bernie Sanders. And he joins us from Manchester.

Tad Devine, welcome.

So, Senator Sanders has been leading in practically all the polls since last summer. A loss for him would be lethal, wouldn’t it?

TAD DEVINE, Senior Advisor to Bernie Sanders’ Campaign: Well, see, though, we are hoping to win tomorrow, Judy. We have been working very hard in New Hampshire for many months.

I think Bernie has a very powerful message that voters here in New Hampshire are responding to. He’s talking about a rigged economy that sends too much wealth to the top, that is being held in place by a corrupt system of campaign finance. That message, from the very first day we arrived here in New Hampshire, has resonated powerfully with people. And we think, tomorrow, we will see the results of that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We all noticed that former President Bill Clinton unleashed his strongest criticism yet of Senator Sanders yesterday. He accused him of being dishonest. He said he’s misrepresented newspaper endorsements. He said his supporters have made sexist attacks on Secretary Clinton, and on and on. He even brought up data that was taken from the Clinton camp last summer.

What do you make of all this? How do you respond?

TAD DEVINE: Well, I think it’s very unfortunate.

You know, obviously, Bernie Sanders is doing well here in New Hampshire. And I think we have begun to see, after Iowa and the closeness of that race, that he’s doing well in other states also. And I think the Clinton campaign hasn’t quite figured out how they’re going to deal with Bernie. Are they going to try to put her message up against his?

I think they have come to the conclusion that that’s not a winning exercise. So I think they are going to try for a while to get him off balance. And I think, right now, what Bernie is doing and what the campaign is trying to do is really ignore those attacks and to make sure that we keep talking about the issues, like the economy, like health care, like how we’re going to deal with climate change, the big issues that people are concerned with.

And as long as we can keep talking about those issues, we think we are going to stay on course and we’re going to do well with voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, in talking about Senator Sanders’ positions, Bill Clinton, President Clinton, said at one point that the senator is — quote — “hermetically sealed from reality.”

TAD DEVINE: Well, listen, I mean, this is the fourth Clinton campaign in New Hampshire for president, OK, so they have a lot of experience running for president here.

And I think they’re getting ready to probably launch attacks elsewhere as well. But I think the reality that Bernie Sanders sees is the reality of the United States, where its leadership is no longer beholden to special interests to fund their campaigns. And if we want to have a new reality in this country, if we want to have an economy that works for people, that doesn’t send practically all the new wealth to the top, we’re going to have the change the thing that is holding that rigged economy in place, and that’s the campaign finance system.

Bernie is campaigning against it. If we are able to change that system, we believe we can change that reality.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Looking ahead, Tad Devine, where does Senator Sanders compete well after New Hampshire? We know there are a number of contests coming up in states that are far more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire.

How — what appeal does he make in places like South Carolina, Nevada and the long string of states to come?


Well, we’re really excited about moving on to other states. In Nevada, which will be the next event after New Hampshire, we have built a very strong campaign on the ground. We think Bernie’s message resonates very powerfully there. That was a state that was hit very bad by the recession.

South Carolina will be another important test of strength with African-American voters and strength in the South as well. And we think Bernie’s story resonates powerful there. Bernie Sanders, as a young man at the University of Chicago, really got very active in the civil rights movement, and he came to Washington to hear Martin Luther King speak.

He was arrested while he was a student there protesting housing policies. And, really, if you look at the whole arc of his life, I think you can trace it back to those days in college, where he made equal rights and civil rights the cause of his life.

We think we will have a lot of targets. We think we can win in small states. We can win in big states and do well in places like Texas, win delegates under our system of proportional representation in the Democratic Party.

So, we’re hoping early on to demonstrate that Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate for the Democratic Party. We can bring new people into the process, young people particularly, who responded so well in Iowa, where he won by net 70 points with 17-to-29-year-olds.

Independents, which will be a big test of strength here in New Hampshire, we think we can bring those people into the Democratic Party as well. So, we’re looking forward to all these states. We think we can do well in a lot of them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know New Hampshire is the first of all the rest, so we will be watching closely tomorrow.

Tad Devine, we thank you.

TAD DEVINE: Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the Republican side.

Tom Rath is senior national adviser to Governor John Kasich. He’s also in Manchester.

Tom Rath, thanks very much.

So, we know Governor Kasich has spent a lot of time, invested a lot of his effort in the state of New Hampshire. You hear prognosticators say that he’s either got to come in second or a very strong third, given that.

Will he?

THOMAS RATH, Senior National Advisor to John Kasich’s Campaign: Well, look it, Judy, I think this is such an incredibly different election than any one I have ever seen that I’m not willing to put a do-or-die on any particular position.

I think what candidates have to do here is establish that they are credible and that they can attract a significant portion of the electorate. Frankly, I believe the polling has Donald Trump up around 30, and then from about numbers two through numbers six, you can cover them with a blanket. It’s that close.

So, I don’t know what that will say if you miss your mark by a point or if you overperform by a point. I just think this is a very close race that’s going to come down to the end. I do not see the middle coalescing behind anybody at this point.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about that, because one of your competitors, Senator Marco Rubio, was seen as having a tough time in that Republican debate Saturday night.

Do you look at that as a — just his being knocked off his game for a few days, or did that do more lasting damage to him?

THOMAS RATH: Well, the problem with that is, in the world we live in, it’s YouTube and videotape loops.

Marco Rubio’s problem goes beyond that. He has tried to be in two lanes at once. And that’s why, when you get into a question that throws him off the talking points, he’s got to remember who he’s going to orient himself to, whether it’s the hard right, the ideologic right, as he did at the end with his abortion questions, or does he come across more as somebody who can bring people together?

That is really what threw him off. That will stay with him long after the back-and-forth goes on, although, as I said before, those kind of things, like “Oops” for Governor Perry, tend to stay with you a long time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to also ask you about Jeb Bush. Governor Kasich has been lumped in with this group of governors seen as moderate who are competing with each other to achieve liftoff.

Who’s going to come in ahead, Governor Kasich or Governor Bush?

THOMAS RATH: I think we have a really good chance to prevail. We have worked very, very hard here and we have got a good ground game. I, for months, have said I do not believe the reports of the demise of Jeb Bush’s campaign.

He’s a good candidate. He’s well-thought-of here. His campaign has done well. I think it’s a real battle for us with them. I think, in the end, we’re going to finish ahead of them. But I’m not going to take that to the bank there. We have got a lot of work to do between now and 8:00 tomorrow night.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Tom Rath, let me ask you about that group of voters, the undeclareds, the independents in New Hampshire. They can vote in either party. What do you expect them to do?

THOMAS RATH: Well, I think they’re going to do what they usually do, which is, at some point, mystically, they make a decision and they all go en masse to one or the other. It’s like they send a secret message out or something.

It happened with McCain twice. And I think it sort of happened with Hillary Clinton the last time. They are hard to predict. They are terribly engaged. We did one of the last town halls with Governor Kasich this morning, and one woman who was undeclared said this was the fifth time she had seen him.

So, they’re paying attention. And we hope to get a good share of them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: No prediction?

THOMAS RATH: I think we are going to do all right. I would say two, three would be a very acceptable result. And I think we could even do — we could probably even be stronger in terms of separation, if things broke right for us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tom Rath, who is working hard for Gov. John Kasich, we thank you so much.

THOMAS RATH: Thank you, Judy.