What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Lauren Chooljian and James Pindell preview the New Hampshire primary

New Hampshire Public Radio’s Lauren Chooljian and James Pindell of the Boston Globe join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest political news ahead of the New Hampshire Democratic primary, including voters’ levels of excitement and indecision, which candidates have momentum after the confusing Iowa caucuses and President Trump’s objective with rallying in New Hampshire the night before the election.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now back to New Hampshire, as the clock continues to tick down here to the start of voting in the first-in-the-nation primary.

    Over the weekend, I caught up with several of the candidates during their frantic final sweeps across this state. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick were among them, but, first, former Vice President Joe Biden.

    Here he is taking questions from reporters about South Bend, Indiana's former Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Guess what? He was a mayor. He's a good guy.

    But the idea of passing a budget as mayor of a town the size of Manchester and managing $900 billion with less than 1 percent fraud or abuse, picking up his city and thousands of cities across the country, is ridiculous.

    So let's get straight. What's the problem? Where is the thing that's so bad in the past?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Isn't his point, though, that that was that moment, that we're now in a different moment, and this moment requires different leadership?

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    That's not what he's saying.

    He's saying that the problems we have now are because of the past. That's what he's saying. Let's get that straight, OK? Period.

    Number two, the problems we have today are, we need not different leader. We have to continue the leadership and move it on. I never said this is going to be a third term of Barack Obama.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    For me, this last few days before the primary vote is all about get out the vote, building that excitement, and getting the people to New Hampshire behind me.

    And I cannot believe what I am hearing up on that stage. There are a bunch of independents who Republican — moderate Republicans who are registered independents that have decided to vote because they can't stand Trump.

    There are a bunch of people who were with other candidates who, after the debate, changed over to me. That's what we're seeing in the polls. And then we have undecideds up the wazoo.

    And I tell them to look at me as a fresh face and that, in this race, between the vice president and Mayor Pete, I say that 59 is the new 38, and that it is good to have someone new, but it's also good to have someone with experience.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you your — I mean, how do you get people to turn out for you?

    I had — talked to one gentleman who said, I really like him, but I worry he doesn't have a chance.

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, the great thing about New Hampshire is that they determine who has a chance and who doesn't. They're very independent-minded here.

    They're going to do what they think is best for the country, and I certainly trust them. But, yes, we're feeling great about the campaign here. We also spent a lot of money on TV ads here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You agree, though, that Pete Buttigieg doesn't have the experience of some of the other candidates?

  • Andrew Yang:

    Well, he certainly doesn't the experience of some of the other candidates.

    The question many voters are asking is, what is the kind of experience they're looking for, the judgment, the values, the priorities, the vision?

  • Deval Patrick:

    I have been in New Hampshire more than any other candidate, including the candidates who've been in this in this race for months and years.

    And it is true I have not spent my time making myself famous over the last couple of years. But I have spent the last 40 years making a difference.

    And I think that the kind of — the kind of primary that's run here in New Hampshire, the expectations of New Hampshire voters, that you are intimate, that you spend time with them, that you talk and listen to them, is a great opportunity to make that case.

    And, as we make that case here, if we get the vote we want here, that gives us momentum moving forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's where we will begin this special New Hampshire edition of Politics Monday.

    With me here in Manchester, in the studios of WGBH, our partner station, are James Pindell of The Boston Globe and Lauren Chooljian of New Hampshire Public Radio. She's the host of the "Stranglehold" podcast, whose entire focus is on this presidential primary.

    Great to have you both with us. Thank you so much for being here.

  • James Pindell:

    It's an honor.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Thanks for having us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, let me just start with a very basic question, Lauren.

    How clear are the candidates' messages coming across in this state?

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Well, for reporters who have been covering them over and over again, it feels like they're very clear, because they sound the same every time you get there.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    But it's funny.

    When you talk to voters, they really do get excited. And they feel like these messages are resonating with them. I cover Pete Buttigieg the most for us at NHPR. And a lot of people say to me they like his energy. They feel like they believe what he's saying, that he's thoughtful, and they like that he's a uniter.

    That is definitely one of his big pitches. And that's where he's kind of like done a couple pokes at Bernie Sanders, who he is, of course, is neck and neck with the polls.

    He — there were a couple moments where he starts to criticize the call for a revolution, and he says that we need to focus on uniting, not dividing, and now, in a big arena for a state Democratic Party fund-raiser — that didn't go over well, of course, with Bernie Sanders supporters, and showed that big divide in the party right now over a feistier leader that is maybe more liberal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    But, among his crowds, they really like what he's saying.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    James Pindell, what are you hearing in messages from the candidates?

  • James Pindell:

    Well, it's a very good question you asked earlier, which is, are they able to get their messages out?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • James Pindell:

    Because these two weeks every four years in the presidential race are some of the most exciting and some of the most dramatic and as raw politics yet.

    Yet, over on top of all of it these last two weeks, it's been really hard in the news environment to get their message out. The first week in Iowa, I was out in Iowa, and impeachment was throughout the entire week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • James Pindell:

    And we had four senators obviously running for president also trying to compete. We had the Super Bowl happening.

    And this week began with a lot of confusion about process. What exactly did happen in Iowa? Then you had the State of the Union address the first day of the New Hampshire primary. Wednesday, the president's acquitted.

    Now it starts to feel like the New Hampshire primary. And you are getting some momentum for candidates who — Pete Buttigieg and lately Amy Klobuchar after that debate. It's starting to feel like voters are really starting to tune in and make some decisions.

    But you're right, that the news environments been very difficult for a lot of these candidates to break through.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Maybe, Lauren, that condensed time period, that people have had to truly only focus on the candidates, maybe that explains some of the hard time voters seem to be having here making a decision.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    I mean, I think we always — the myth is that New Hampshire voters are hard to — they have a hard time making up their mind.

    And I think the large field hasn't helped with that. And, I mean, I have talked to a lot of voters who continue to be undecided. Even in the polls, like from The Boston Globe, there's always that percentage of people who say, I think I know who I'm voting for, but I could change my mind before Election Day, which seems crazy, I know, because it feels like this election has been going on forever.

    But, for some people, they just want to keep seeing candidates. There's also people who don't have time to go out and see candidates, right?

    I mean, we get a lot of attention for a very engaged population. But there are also a lot of people here who can't make these candidate events. And so they're just turning the TV on now, which also seems crazy for us.

    But I think that that is a really unknown factor in this election. I think Amy Klobuchar is a great example of someone who's trying to capitalize on that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We hear so much about how these — this year especially, Democrats want someone to beat Donald Trump.

    So, I guess my question, James, is, is that the overriding concern? I mean, set aside the left wing of the Democratic Party, the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

  • James Pindell:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What is it that voters are looking for?

  • James Pindell:

    I think that's exactly right.

    Poll after poll says it. You hear it every single time I talk to a voter or I go door to door. I mean, this idea that, typically, particularly Democratic primaries are this battle between the head and the heart, the one candidate on one side and then the candidate you know is most electable, that is not a debate at all.

    It's all about the head, who can beat it? And I think what in part is driving this indecision, it's not entirely obvious who that person is. And I think people are waiting for a moment, some clarity, some — maybe it's on the debate stage or some comment, where it becomes crystal clear who that person is. And they have get to see that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I hear — for example, you hear Bernie Sanders saying, this is the most important election in our modern time.

    In fact, this morning, I heard him say, it may be the most important election ever in America, maybe a slight hyperbole.

  • James Pindell:

    Julius Caesar, that election, this has nothing on this.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    On the other hand, Joe Biden, Lauren, saying, well, I could take a hit here, lowering expectations.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    That was certainly a stunning moment on the debate stage. And I know some supporters of his were kind of struck by that. And also people who are on the fence and are trying to see how he does in these last remaining days were also struck by that.

    New Hampshire people want to know that the voters take them seriously. They want to feel important, right? And for someone to just kind of throw it out early and say, I'm probably going to take a hit here, I think that made an impression with people.

  • James Pindell:

    And one more thing on that, Judy.

    As you know, you have been covering so many New Hampshire primaries.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • James Pindell:

    These voters here love the story of the comeback.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Yes. Yes.

  • James Pindell:

    They want someone they can get behind. They like them if they're — they know and they're humble and they go out there on the hustings.

    And Joe Biden comes out here and says, I want a comeback, intellectually, I deserve a comeback, but it's probably not going to happen, vs. Amy Klobuchar, who's hitting every single diner in her running shoes, and she's talking people up, wanting to earn the vote, like Bill Clinton, like Hillary Clinton, like John McCain.

    Go down the line. The story of the comeback is there if a candidate actually goes in and tries to do it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, meantime, Lauren, you have — you're headed from this interview across the street…

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Right across the street.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … to none other than a rally for President Trump, who's come right into the belly of the beast on the eve of the primary.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Yes. Yes, absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How is that playing on as voters think about this?

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Well, I mean, of course he's here, right?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    He wants to have a big party to distract the attention away from this huge Democratic primary.

    He's also very popular here among New Hampshire Republicans. Last week, Vice President Pence's wife, Karen, was here. The vice president was also here today. He's going to do a similar thing, like he did in Iowa, where he brings in a lot of surrogates, because I think he wants to send a message that he really wants to do well in New Hampshire in 2020.

    This was, of course, one of his tightest margins in 2016. And he's had his eye on it ever since. He was here in August. And so New Hampshire is extremely important to him.

    And there are a lot of people fired up to support him. I mean, at the last couple events I have been to, there is like a bus or something happening from Trump supporters outside. So they want to show that it isn't just about Democrats here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A couple of Trump buses, yes.

  • James Pindell:

    And, technically, Donald Trump is in the New Hampshire primary tomorrow against Bill Weld.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For sure. There is still…

  • James Pindell:

    So, he still does have that.

    And I will say one last thing. He tried this in Des Moines the week before the Iowa — the week before the Iowa caucuses. The impact was pretty obvious.

    The Des Moines Register the next day had a story about Trump, had a story about Mike Pence at the Drake Diner, and some ag stories, and not a single story on the front page about a Democratic presidential candidate, which really may be the play here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we will see what happens right here in New Hampshire. We wouldn't miss it. We — all eyes on the Granite State.

    James Pindell, Lauren Chooljian, thank you very much.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Thank you.

  • James Pindell:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Appreciate it.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest