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How 2020 Democrats are making a final campaign push in New Hampshire

Democratic presidential candidates are debating in New Hampshire Friday, in one of their final chances to sway potential voters before the state’s Tuesday primary. Others were on the campaign trail elsewhere in the country. Lisa Desjardins, reporting from New Hampshire, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the impact of the Iowa caucuses on New Hampshire and what voters want from their top candidate.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Many eyes are on New Hampshire tonight, as most of the leading Democratic presidential candidates take the debate stage.

    The stakes are high, as this could be their last opportunity to sway those undecided ahead of New Hampshire's primary on Tuesday.

    A few candidates, those on and off tonight's stage, were making their cases on the campaign trail today.

    We will hear from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Manchester, New Hampshire. He follows former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spoke to military veterans in Norfolk, Virginia.

  • Michael Bloomberg:

    Most presidential candidates talk about helping veterans who have served, and that's critically important.

    They don't talk about what makes for a successful leader and an effective decision-maker, even though those are the most important qualifications for the job. They don't have any experience leading large organizations or making hard decisions. And most of them are legislators, not executives.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    We have got a former mayor of New York City, who has a record, every reason in the world — he's entitled to run for president, no problem with that, smart guy.

    But he is spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the election. There is something wrong with that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And to give us a sense of what's happening on the ground in New Hampshire is our own Lisa Desjardins. She joins us from Manchester.

    So, Lisa, I know you spent the day not only following the candidates, but talking to voters. What are they saying to you? How much does what happened in Iowa factor into their thinking?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, in the last few days here in New Hampshire, I can tell you, I'm feeling a collective shrug to what happened in Iowa.

    Really, New Hampshire voters don't seem the care too much, though I will say, if you look at the polls, it does seem that the two leaders in Iowa, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, seem to have gone up by a few points here in New Hampshire.

    And when you talk to voters, they're more tuned in to what's happening in this state, and a lot is happening, Judy. By "NewsHour"'s count, some 64 candidate events have happened in this state since the Iowa caucuses, a great deal of attention on them.

    And, you know, I went to a Pete Buttigieg event yesterday, talked to voters as they were coming out. They do seem to have more enthusiasm for him than they had a month ago.

    But, Judy, at the same time, he's not drawing the large arenas yet that we're seeing from Bernie Sanders, so a lot to watch.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, it sounds like even higher stakes for this debate that's coming up tonight with the candidates.

    How are the campaigns looking at this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, we will be heading over there now.

    Seven candidates on stage tonight, the five who received at least one delegate from Iowa and then, in addition to that, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. They will all be on stage.

    Judy, the stakes are incredibly high. We say that for every debate, but think about this. This debate in 2016, the final debate before the New Hampshire primary, that was a debate where Marco Rubio really took a bit of a kind of rhetorical punching from Chris Christie, and he didn't recover.

    Jeb Bush also wasn't able to regain footage — footing after this. This is a point in the campaign, Judy, where essentially you're in the semifinals, almost in the final round. Candidates, especially Elizabeth Warren, need to find a way to not just be number three, but to be — break out, to beat her expectations.

    Of course, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders both have a lot at stake. And for Joe Biden, this is a critical stand. Two fourth-place finishes will raise even more question marks about his campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let's talk a little bit…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    If it happens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sorry for interrupting.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's talk a little bit more about Joe Biden.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How is his campaign dealing with his coming in fourth in Iowa? And how do they plan to address it?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    His campaign had a phone call with some of the — some political reporters this afternoon. We were on that call.

    And they said, they admitted, yes, we took our lumps in Iowa. But they said, this is a candidate, in their words, who has been down before and knows how to recover, that he understands what real setbacks are and can recover from that.

    Judy, but they have also been making some interesting moves. Senior campaign adviser Anita Dunn, known by some in the political world, especially for her work with President Obama and his campaign, she is enlarging her role.

    What's interesting, Judy, on this call, the Biden campaign was asked several times, is she going to run the campaign? What is her title? Who is running the Biden campaign?

    To that, the answer by Biden campaign officials was simply, Joe Biden runs this campaign.

    I know that Anita Dunn is moving to Philadelphia to full time over the — to not take over, to do more. But it's not clear what her role is. A lot of question marks over that sort of staffing decision. And, obviously, they need to have a big — they are putting — they say they are planning on trying to compete heavily here in New Hampshire.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So interesting.

    And, finally, Lisa, I think what we saw from interviews with voters in Iowa, they made up their minds, they said, some of them, weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

    What do you — do you get the sense in New Hampshire people have made up their minds or not?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    No.

    Judy, I have to tell you, there seem to be a massive amount of undecided voters. Now, if you look at the polls, you will see sort of mid to single digit or a 10 percent number for undecideds here.

    But you have to look deeper. And when you talk the people here, you know many people might say they have a top choice, but they're not firmly fixed to that choice. And, in fact, as you see in the polls, over half of voters in a recent Monmouth poll said they could still change their mind.

    And I can tell you, I heard that firsthand when I was an Elizabeth Warren event yesterday in Derry. I ran into a student from the University of Southern Florida. She was volunteering for Bernie Sanders, I think last week, went there, didn't like what she said the vibe was, and then switched as a volunteer to Elizabeth Sanders (sic) this week.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Similarly, Judy — right?

    And, similarly, Andrew Yang, at one of his events I went to yesterday, he asked people to raise their hand if they are in the Yang Gang. And even though he had a good-sized crowd, really, maybe 10, 8 percent of the people there raised their hands.

    This is a state that is undecided. And, Judy, I have to tell you, these voters want to fall in love with a candidate. And, right now, they haven't found the person they're in love with yet.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Great reporting, Lisa Desjardins, as always.

    I see you have got a coat and hat on. I'm bringing my coat, coming up tomorrow. Can't wait.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes. Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    See you there.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    See you there.

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