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Takeaways from the N.H. primary, and what it means for the longer race

What's the state of the Democratic presidential primary as candidates leave New Hampshire and set their sights on Nevada and South Carolina? Judy Woodruff gets reaction from Lauren Chooljian of New Hampshire Public Radio, Jon Ralston of the Nevada Independent and Thelisha Eaddy of South Carolina Public Radio.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, first, we will check in on the state of the Democratic presidential primary and what to expect as candidates set their sights now on Nevada and South Carolina.

    To give us a sense of how things are shaping up, Lauren Chooljian of New Hampshire Public Radio, joining us again from Manchester, Thelisha Eaddy of South Carolina Public Radio, joining us from Columbia, and Jon Ralston of The Nevada Independent. He's joining us from Las Vegas, where he will be one of the moderators at next Wednesday's Democratic debate.

    Welcome to all of you.

    And, Lauren Chooljian, I'm going to start with you.

    We are — here we are the day after New Hampshire. You have had a chance to look at it.

    Tell us what we should know about turnout and about, in general, what were voters saying about these candidates?

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Well, the turnout numbers are still getting finalized, Judy, but what we can say for sure is that the turnout did exceed 2008 numbers in the Democratic Party — in the Democratic primary.

    Republican numbers were also quite high. The question, though, is how the numbers of eligible voters changed and whether that indicates that there was actually, like, a big percentage of turnout or not.

    But what we do know is that Bernie Sanders did what he was hoping to do, which is really turning out — turning out voters in student towns like Durham, like Plymouth, like Keene, where there are big schools here. And that's what he was hoping to do, and that's what he did.

    But Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are now fighting it out for the moderate voters. We have talked this entire election long thus far about this progressive vs. moderate split. And going forward, they're going to be trying to beat each other out for those moderate voters in the next coming states.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Jon Ralston, next state up is Nevada on the 22nd of February.

    So, tell us how — you're talking to these voters. You're talking to folks in the Democratic Party all the time. How do they read these results in New Hampshire?

  • Jon Ralston:

    Well, I don't think they surprise them that much, Judy, after what happened in Iowa.

    The real issue here is that Joe Biden has been ahead in the polls since any polls were — started to be taken here. There haven't been any in a while. But I suspect that Joe Biden only getting 9 percent here is a real — in New Hampshire — excuse me — is a real problem for his campaign here.

    Bernie Sanders has a great organization here, now 250 staffers on the ground. And you know what a small state we are, Judy. So that's a huge number. And Mayor Pete is next with about 100.

    So I think Bernie Sanders, who almost won here in 2016, has an even better organization here this time, has been doing pretty well in the polls, is the clear favorite here now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Thelisha Eaddy, South Carolina, let's talk about Joe Biden.

    He was said to have a big advantage among African-American voters in South Carolina. Is that going to hold?

  • Thelisha Eaddy:

    Yes, we think so. At least the voters that I talk to think so.

    Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, were actually here in Columbia yesterday at what they were calling a launch party. And right off the bat, he had high energy. The people there had a high energy.

    But right off the bat, he told supporters there that the fight to end Donald Trump's presidency was just beginning, that they only heard from two states out of 50, and that we have not heard from what he called the party's most committed voters, and that, of course, the African-American voters.

    Here in South Carolina, they make up about over 60 percent of the party here. So, a lot of people are still very excited about what Joe Biden can do here in South Carolina because of the really deep connections and deep roots that he — roots that he has here in the Palmetto State.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lauren Chooljian, I want to come back to you on New Hampshire and look at one of the really interesting bits of information about these voters.

    There's so much to pore over. There was this voter survey looking at age. And if you look at the youngest voters, this is the demographic, 18 to 29. Look how Bernie Sanders cleaned up, with almost 50 percent of those voters. Just quickly, 30-44, he still was in the lead. Voters 45-64, he is sharing it there with Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar. And, of course, the oldest voters split among Klobuchar, Sanders and Buttigieg.

    What is that telling us about these candidates, do you think?

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Yes, Judy, we certainly saw that trend, that older voters were going for Buttigieg, early in the New Hampshire campaign.

    And as Klobuchar did really well on the debate stage and kind of surged a little bit late in the game here, she started to pick up some of those voters as well. They both did very well in highly educated towns in New Hampshire, some of the more affluent communities.

    I think what it means is that, when Bernie Sanders goes to Nevada and South Carolina, he's going to have to try and expand beyond the youth turnout and see if he can pull in newer voters, other than just focusing on where he knows he can do well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, what is it about his message, Jon Ralston?

    You said he seems to be in strong shape. But he's going to have Amy Klobuchar coming after him, Pete Buttigieg, neither one of whom — neither one of these candidates is going to just sit back and let Bernie Sanders have it.

  • Jon Ralston:

    Well, really, what's happening after the first two states, Judy, is that you see Bernie Sanders not being given the mantle of front-runner, which is really something else, considering he won the first two states, and the real story being exactly what you just asked, which is, who is going to be seen as the alternative to Bernie Sanders?

    Who can appeal to more moderate voters? Who can appeal to communities of color? And Amy Klobuchar making a good showing in the debate, and then in New Hampshire, but not having much of an organization here at all, has suddenly bought a bunch of television. Mayor Pete has had a robust organization here, hoping to take advantage of exactly the scenario that is playing out.

    And what's really something, Judy, is how Elizabeth Warren, who a few months ago was being talked about all over the place as the surging candidate, has dropped out of the conversation. And so she was — Warren has a big organization here as well, was first on the ground.

    This is really a last stand, I think, for Warren and Biden in Nevada going into South Carolina, because whatever strength Biden has in South Carolina is not going to be the same if he loses the first three states and is an also-ran in the first three states.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So interesting to look at that and contrast where these candidates are.

    Thelisha Eaddy, so you talked about Joe Biden. And, at this point, you're saying it looks like he's strong in the African-American community. The other candidates who are coming out of New Hampshire strong, Bernie Sanders, Amy — Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, what kind of organization do they have in South Carolina? What does it look like for them right now?

  • Thelisha Eaddy:

    When it comes to Bernie Sanders, he has — he's done a really good job of laying out a good grassroots effort here in South Carolina.

    Coming up this weekend, he has — his campaign will have a — what they're calling a 900-volunteer switch this weekend, knocking on a lot of doors. He will actually be back in South Carolina this Saturday. He will be in the Greenville area.

    So we're seeing that the — what he has laid out when it comes to communities, peppered all across the state, is really working in his favor.

    Also, when it comes to Mayor Pete, Pete Buttigieg, he is getting a lot of big name recognition by association, if you will, not — he hasn't done well in the polls here in South Carolina, but he has a lot of people with great roots here in South Carolina working for him.

    So, on some of the campaign ads that are running on television stations here, we're seeing his association with Congressman Clyburn. Congressman Clyburn's grandson is actually working with him, and also the grandson of another civil rights icon, Esau Jenkins, that was very pivotal in busing children to schools back in the day and also in traveling across the state in registering African-American voters to vote.

    So it's been very interesting to watch those two campaigns really try to dig in and gain more African-American voters here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And the other candidate I want to bring up is Mike Bloomberg. He is not competing in these four states, Jon, but he is looming out there, spending a ton of money in the state that — states — the 14 states that are coming up right after South Carolina.

    Are you seeing any evidence of him in Nevada?

  • Jon Ralston:

    No, he's — somewhat. He is invisible here, Judy.

    But, as you all know, no one has ever tried to do what Mike Bloomberg is trying to do, which is to skip the first four states, and then hope that he can make a splash on Super Tuesday, as you mentioned. Of course, nobody has spent billions of dollars trying to do that either.

    So it's an outlier. But, also, there is that construct that we have now in the Democratic Party. Is Bernie Sanders going to have all this momentum after the first four states? And then who is the anti-Bernie candidate? Will Mayor Pete be able to hold onto that mantle? Can Joe Biden resurrect himself?

    Or does the Democratic Party turn its lonely eyes to Mike Bloomberg as the alternative to Bernie Sanders? So I think it's really uncertain out there. And I don't think — it's not going to hurt Bloomberg if he does well on Super Tuesday. But it is a real — that's a real — to use the Vegas lingo, Judy, that's a real gamble.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Thelisha Eaddy, you get the last word here.

    Any sign of Mike Bloomberg in South Carolina?

  • Thelisha Eaddy:

    I actually agree with what he just said.

    We — not that much. At non-candidate events that I go to where we have a mixture of people, I don't hear a lot of people talking about Mike Bloomberg. When people tell me that they're still undecided or they're leaning towards a candidate, but they still want to consider other candidates, Mike Bloomberg is not one that comes up.

    Of course, he has the support of our capital city Mayor Steve Benjamin, first African-American mayor of the city. But even with that really popular mayor behind him, I'm not seeing a lot of people talk about him here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I can't leave without asking Jon Ralston about the way that Democrats will be choosing their favorite Democrat when Nevada votes on the 22nd, and that is caucuses.

    They had trouble with them in Iowa. What does it look like in Nevada?

  • Jon Ralston:

    Well, Iowa is a low bar to get over, right, in Nevada.


  • Jon Ralston:

    And so they're trying to do that.

    And they're obviously worried, Judy, because of the optics of what happened in Iowa, the fact that they were going to use essentially the same technology, which they have now discarded. They're trying to simplify everything.

    And the state party here may be the best in the country. They're that talented. But it's a caucus. Things are going to go wrong. And you throw into play that they're doing early voting this time, Judy, that starts Saturday here for four days, and then those votes have to be properly placed in the right precincts, so they get the right viability numbers on caucus day.

    There are a lot of crossed fingers down at Democratic Party headquarters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It sounds just really simple to me. I mean, I'm sure it's going to be…


  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm sure it'll all go down smoothly. We shall see.

    Jon Ralston, Thelisha Eaddy, Lauren Chooljian, so good to have all of you. Thank you.

  • Lauren Chooljian:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • Thelisha Eaddy:

    Thank you.

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