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New Hampshire voters grapple with indecision as Democratic primary nears

All eyes are on New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s first primary of the 2020 presidential election cycle. Candidates have been criss-crossing the state to court voters -- and sharpening their attacks against each other -- in the final sprint to the contest. Lisa Desjardins reports and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss lingering doubt about the Iowa caucuses, candidate momentum and voter indecision.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    All eyes are on New Hampshire tonight, ahead of tomorrow's first primary contest of the 2020 presidential election cycle.

    Judy Woodruff and Lisa Desjardins are there, and we will hear more from them shortly.

    But, first, Lisa reports on how candidates are crisscrossing the state to court voters and sharpening their attacks against each other in the final sprint.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.:

    Tomorrow could begin the end of Donald Trump.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Even by Granite State standards, this one is a whopper, five Democratic candidates fighting for the top spots.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

    I'm ready for some change. Are you ready for some big structural change?

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    I promise you, I can get this done. I can get it done in a first year. And we will give people hope immediately.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.:

    What we need right now is a candidate for all of America, not just half of America.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    With the oldest and youngest candidates in modern history racing for first.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    If we win here in New Hampshire — and with your help, I think we can — it will make it easier for us to win in Nevada and in South Carolina and in California.

  • Pete Buttigieg:

    I believe the Granite State could make me the next president to the United States.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The galloping horse race is spurring another political phenomenon. For every New Hampshire voter whose mind is made up, there are even more who still are not sure.

    Do you know who you are going to vote for?

  • Woman:

    No, I don't know who I'm going to vote for.

  • Man:

    Three candidates at this point. I am undecided right now.

  • Alexandra Corriveau:

    I think this is just sort of, like, the last 24 — last 48 hours kind of jitters. So I'm not sure what's going to happen.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Polls out this weekend show 50 to 60 percent of New Hampshire Democratic voters have not made up their minds. The contest is now a blitz to reach and sway them.

    The 2016 winner of the New Hampshire primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has a massive organization, literally wall-to-wall with volunteers at this Concord event Saturday.

    In Sanders' field office in Lebanon, near the Vermont border, organizers are coordinating busloads of fired-up volunteers arriving each day, pushing for sweeping change, including government-run health care.

    Ben Hollander and Maya Munoz are here from New York.

  • Ben Hollander:

    They have basically given the four of us to separate turfs that we then split up in groups of two. And they have the names where you go knock, the houses, a map.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    All this on your phone?

  • Ben Hollander:

    Yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But national newcomer Pete Buttigieg, who won the most delegates in Iowa, has proven he's a quick study and a massive crowd draw. His 15 field offices here are in full tilt, stressing the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, as a smart, fresh leader.

    The campaign says they are everywhere, including, Saturday morning, a freezing cold hot spot, the Merrimack town dump, where Buttigieg supporter Roy Swonger and family handed out cookies and waved to car after car in the bitter weather.

    Roy is registered as undeclared, neither Republican nor Democrat. Undeclared is the largest group in the state, and Roy says Buttigieg can sway them.

  • Roy Swonger:

    You reach them the same way you reach everybody else, by on-the-ground canvassing, knocking on doors, making phone calls, as annoying as it is.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Sanders has firm, committed voters, but Buttigieg has this possibility: He is clearly on the mind of the undecided.

  • Woman:

    I like Biden and I also like Peter Buttigieg.

  • Man:

    Pete Buttigieg.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Anybody else?

  • Man:

    Tom Steyer.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    How about you?

  • Woman:

    Pete Buttigieg and maybe Amy Klobuchar.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Those words, maybe Amy Klobuchar, are shaking up the race dynamics. The Minnesota senator is seeing her crowds and poll numbers grow quickly after strong debate performances, including last week.

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar:

    I don't have the bank account of some of my opponents. And I don't have quite the name I.D. yet. And I'm not a brand-new newcomer to politics. But I have integrity. And I get this country.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Undecided voter Debi Rapson came to a Klobuchar event in Manchester.

  • Debi Rapson:

    I think I may have decided just now for Amy. For me, it is her realness, her humanity.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Klobuchar's rise is a problem for some others.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    Can the person who you're voting for beat Donald Trump? That's the first question.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Including the man with the most experience, former Vice President Joe Biden. He insists he is best poised to beat President Trump.

    But Biden was fourth in Iowa, and doubts are rising, including about whether Republican attacks on him during months of impeachment have done permanent harm. But the longtime Democrat has loyal supporters, like Bill Glahn.

  • Bill Glahn:

    Nothing's changed my mind. They're all pretty good, but I'm a Biden supporter.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Also in the hunt, of course, is a New Hampshire neighbor, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, well-organized and holding as many events as any anyone.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren:

    The only way we're going to make this better is, we use this primary to build a grassroots movement, a grassroots movement that's there for the primary, there for the general, and there to make real change in 2021.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    She has a focused message about health care and other costs being too high because of Wall Street greed.

  • Dana Read:

    Well, she's willing to take on corporate America, the insurance companies. That's — she speaks my language.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And don't forget five others in the hunt. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet is getting buzz here.

  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.:

    I think this is more wide open right now than it has been the whole year.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And voters are thinking about two charismatic businessmen, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.

  • Andrew Yang:

    Let's make America think harder.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Former Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, and Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman and soldier from Hawaii.

    This brings us back to the Democrats' struggle.

    And the home of Rona Zlokower and George Bruno. It's campaign housing for volunteers from opposing teams and a warm place, where friends of different camps gather nightly to unwind in a political storm.

    They explained the indecision to us, talking of high stakes, the chill of impeachment and the era of President Trump.

  • Rona Zlokower:

    The importance of it is just exaggerated by what we have just lived through. The weight is much heavier than it — than I have felt it before.

  • Man:

    You want to make the right decision, but you're not sure what is the best decision. And that's all based on who is best to beat Trump.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The race is about who can win in November, whether Democrats move left or toward the middle. But it is also about fear of making a mistake.

  • Cindy Phillips:

    Where is this country going? It's kind of scary. And I hope we can get on track.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We're getting down to crunch time now. How are you going to decide?

  • Isabelle Glennon:

    I don't know.

  • Woman:

    It's harder this time. It is harder.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But with the first polls opening at midnight, undecided voters are running out of time.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins in Manchester, New Hampshire.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I'm here with Lisa now, who's been doing so much reporting over the last few days.

    Lisa, I got into New Hampshire over the weekend. And I see, as I have seen over the years, New Hampshire voters take this vote so seriously. You talk to voters at virtually any candidate event…

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … they're agonizing over it.

    But I'm particularly struck by the new interest, if you will, in Amy Klobuchar. What do you think is going on there?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think there's been an opening because of this indecision, and it seems that she's benefiting from it.

    Voters that I talk to say that they like that they she think she is authentic. They like that she has this moderate message that they think is winnable. And some of them like that she's a woman. They want that kind of candidate.

    Others question if she has a problem because she's a woman. But I will tell you this, Judy. She's not just appealing to moderates. I was just in a Bernie Sanders event. I spoke to a voter who was thinking about Bernie Sanders, and now is all the way on board with Amy Klobuchar.

    The reason why, again, he thinks she's genuine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, again, it goes back to that electability thing, can a woman get elected?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And if she can persuade them of that, it helps.

    Lisa, let's talk about something that made news today. Two of these candidates came out of Iowa, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders. Today, they both made news by going back to the Iowa Democratic Party.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I mean, even New Hampshire is about to vote, and the Iowa caucuses are still in dispute.

    Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders have asked for a recanvass, a look again at 85 precincts. Now. that's not that many out of about 1,800 precincts, but it really is just a problem for both of these candidates.

    Pete Buttigieg, as a reminder for our viewers, he has eked out a win in the delegate count. Bernie Sanders says he won because he had more of the popular vote in the first round.

    So, what are voters left to think? In the end, we have these two candidates neck and neck. And they're fighting over exactly who gets the title of winner in Iowa.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And no question Iowa still a subject of conversation here in New Hampshire, as much as the candidates want to move on.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Joe Biden, a lot of looking at Joe Biden, and the fact that people worry.

    I talked to a number of voters yesterday and on Saturday who said they're just not sure that this Joe Biden, who they loved as vice president, has what it takes to win in November.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There are two questions with Joe Biden.

    He has always brought about this idea that he can appeal to Middle America. And after impeachment, there's a question of whether he is too damaged. Democratic voters don't like that he was attacked. They don't believe he is a corrupt man.

    But they're worried that swing voters in November might believe what the president has been attacking Vice President Biden on.

    The other problem, Judy, he has had some missteps on the campaign trail. He has not performed in debates as well as he's needed to, to regain his footing.

    Two fourth-place finishes, which is what he is in danger of having right now, would be a huge blow. However, of course, his big state is South Carolina. That's two states ahead. We will see what happens.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just quickly, when I asked voters what their concern was about Biden, they said, it's not age. It's whether he can stand up to President Trump in November.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, such a fascinating race.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's amazing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You're following it so closely.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It's so great to be here with you.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And it's great to be here with you.

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