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Democrats look to New Hampshire after chaotic Iowa caucuses

Democratic presidential hopefuls took to the stage for another debate Friday as they looked for an edge in the lead-up to the New Hampshire primaries following last week's chaotic Iowa caucuses. Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, joins Hari Sreenivasan for more on the presidential race and the impact the Iowa caucuses may have in New Hampshire.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Joining us now for more on how the New Hampshire race is shaping up and what impact the Iowa caucus confusion may have on the results is Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. Thanks for joining us. First, really, looking forward to New Hampshire. What is on their minds? What's most important so far to a voter in New Hampshire?

  • Patrick Murray:

    Well, the majority of voters say they're looking for someone who can beat Donald Trump. So that seems to, like, really pop out in our poll. That's what we've been hearing from Democrats all along. We weren't sure whether that would materialize until we got to these early contests. And we did see a little bit in Iowa. And we're seeing and I think more in New Hampshire.

    But! There's a difference there between those who are worried about that and the minority who say, I don't care about that, it's about policy and in terms of who they're supporting. So Bernie Sanders supporters, supporters of some of these lower polling candidates who are making up about one tenth of the total electorate right now are saying it's about policy. It's all about policy. It's voters for Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden in particular saying it's all about electability. And so what we're seeing in our polling at the beginning of this week, as the Iowa numbers are trickling in on other polls are showing that there's a movement is, those voters are really shifting right now. Because they're not sure exactly what's going to happen.

    So the debate last night, Buttigieg's performance in Iowa, all these things are seeing, making that centrist part of it, that people are concerned about beating on Trump, kind of churn a little bit in terms of their decision, because half of Iowa voters, half of New Hampshire voters say they haven't made up their mind yet.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So the Bernie Sanders voter or the Tulsi Gabbard voter are more likely to say this is about the right person and the right policy. And this is who I'd vote for. So what happens to them if their candidate of choice isn't the one? Versus, say, some of these voters who support a centrist policy or a centrist candidate and who consider electability their most important issue?

  • Patrick Murray:

    The thing that we've seen that there is different types of voters. So the Tulsi Gabbard voter. Let's just take her, for instance. They're only there for Tulsi Gabbard, they're very conservative. They're not kind of the liberal outsider that is, that Bernie Sanders is attracting. The Elizabeth Warren voter, that's the one that's going to be interesting. Because Bernie Sanders, it doesn't look like at this point, unless Elizabeth Warren pulls off an upset in New Hampshire, that she's going to be able to continue on. If she is, then, she might be pulling some of Bernie Sanders' support. But if she doesn't, it's the opposite way around. I think most of her support, some of them are concerned about electability. But most of her support are concerned about policy. And they'll go to Bernie Sanders. If he is able to consolidate that support, where the centrists are still kind of mulling about not sure which one is the best candidate. Bernie Sanders can start racking up delegates by winning 30, 35 percent of the vote in these contests that are rolling out on Super Tuesday.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    OK. And that's what I was to say — heading forward now, there is still an incentive for a Tom Steyer to stick around because he's been campaigning in South Carolina, where he's been spending money in South Carolina to try to increase his name-brand recognition.

  • Patrick Murray:

    Right. So if, I have a feeling that some of Steyer's support in South Carolina and Nevada that we're seeing right now in the polls is driven by the fact that he's the only one who's been present there with his advertising. I think once the other candidates get in there, the voters start looking at what happened in Iowa and New Hampshire, that could shift.

    I think the bigger wildcard here is what happens on Super Tuesday with Mike Bloomberg on the ballot. I think that's going to be a bigger issue. Because if those centrists haven't figured it out yet, and may want to support Mike Bloomberg, somebody else that they could give another look at, and maybe Bernie Sanders' 35 percent goes up to 40 or 45 percent at that point in some of these states.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So let's talk a little bit about what happened last week in Iowa. Everybody was watching, a giant spotlight on Iowa, and then these results — some of it technology, some of it just procedural, didn't get here the way that we expected. What does this do to the process going forward? Another four years.

  • Patrick Murray:

    I think it points out the failure of using a caucus to kick this off. So you got to remember, caucuses are designed to select convention delegates to your county conventions, to set party platforms, they're not designed to give a broad base of the Democratic or Republican electorate, for that matter, a say in who the nominee is. So they tried to have it both ways this year. And that's what caused the technical breakdown, because then we found out, guess what? When they've been reporting these delegate equivalents in the past, they were probably not following the rules then either. Now that we have all these numbers here, we can see that they're not following the rules.

    But I think the bigger problem with Iowa is that you had less than two thirds, less than 20 percent I think, of eligible voters, go out and say, this is who we want to be the Democratic nominee for president. That's not a good way to kick off. I mean, we hear from Iowa, people who are supporters of the Iowa caucus, and kickoff say, well, we're really interested here. Guess what? More than two thirds of your Democratic voters are not interested because they didn't participate at all. And I think that maybe we won't be seeing caucuses in the process, in the way they are now, when we get to the next cycle.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Well, let's talk also a little bit about the president's approval rating in his party, and where it has been over time and especially through this impeachment.

  • Patrick Murray:

    Yes. I mean, this has been really fascinating because one of the things that I was looking back, I was one of the first people to actually pollsters the poll, Donald Trump as a serious candidate back in 2015. And what we found is he only had something like a 26 or 28 percent approval rating, or favorable rating, among Republicans back in the spring of 2015. By the time he announced, it went up to 41 percent. By the time he was nominated, it went up to 65 percent. But now we see it at 90, 90 percent and locked in. There's nothing that he can do to change that. He is has actually transformed the Republican Party. I think part of it has been that many of those people, Republicans who still disapproved of him when he was elected, have left the party and become independents. And that's why we're seeing a probably a smaller base of Republicans now. But they're fully in lockstep with Donald Trump.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, thanks so much.

  • Patrick Murray:

    My pleasure.

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