Bernie Sanders
Photo: AP Photo/Steven Senne
Photo: AP Photo/Steven Senne

N.H Notebook: A quest for undecideds and Biden’s ‘dog-faced’ jab 

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - The White House hopefuls have zeroed in on New Hampshire for the better part of a year, visiting the sort of tiny towns that don’t even get second looks in state elections in Georgia. 

And yet, polls show roughly one-third of voters haven’t made up their minds. That lends a sense of volatility to Tuesday’s contest, though surveys consistently show U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders atop the heap and Mayor Pete Buttigieg in a close second. 

We made a point to try to find the uncommitted at campaign rallies around the state on Monday. It wasn’t hard to find them. 

Ted Gilchrist, a computer programmer, sat in the second-floor balcony of a Unitarian church in downtown Portsmouth for an event for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

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He was torn between the Massachusetts lawmaker and Buttigieg – and even before Warren finished speaking, he made a bee-line for the mayor’s event in nearby Exeter. 

“I’m factoring in the policies I’m drawn to and who I think is most electable,” he said. “I like them both, but what I like about Buttigieg is his talk about bringing people together. The polarization isn’t going to go away when the election is over.” 

Why the AJC sends reporters to other presidential primary states

Atlanta Journal-Constitution political reporter Greg Bluestein is in New Hampshire covering the lead-up to Tuesday's Democratic primary, as well as the results of the election.

Why would a Georgia paper send a reporter out of state when there is abundant political news at home? New Hampshire and Georgia are two very different states, but voters in both share many of the same concerns and the same national picture.

Early voting for Georgia’s March 24 presidential primary begins March 2, less than a month after the primary. That means the story coming out of New Hampshire will influence what happens here.

Bluestein will also follow a number of Georgians from both parties who are spending time in early primary states to support their candidates. Their stories are part of the larger tale of Georgia’s role in the presidential contest.

 

Across the state in Rindge, the student center at Franklin Pierce University was full of enthusiastic students waving Sanders signs. On the sidelines were two other teens holding the senator’s 

“It’s really debatable. Bernie is definitely up there, but I honestly don’t know,” said Peter Mahoney, who is 18. “I’m like everyone else – still not sure.” 

He was standing beside Harrison Torrans, a classmate who also worried whether Sanders would be the best choice to defeat President Donald Trump.

“I don’t think Bernie is electable,” he said. “We probably need another 10 years until the nation catches up with him.” 

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Hampton, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Photo: Elise Amendola/AP

‘Dog faced’

SALEM, N.H. – There’s always a Georgia connection. 

At a campaign stop in Hampton, Mercer University student Madison Moore raised her hand to ask former Vice President Joe Biden a question about how he can appeal to a national audience after a fourth-place finish in Iowa. 

"It's a good question," Biden said. "Have you ever been to a caucus?" 

Moore nodded that she had. 

"No, you haven’t. You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier," Biden said, drawing laughter from Moore and some others in the audience. 

It was a line from a John Wayne movie, and one that Biden has invoked before, as his spokeswoman quickly pointed out. But Moore didn’t find it so funny. 

She acknowledged that she hadn’t attended the caucus but said she was flustered by a question from Biden and instinctively replied in the affirmative. 

“It was kind of humiliating to be called a liar on national TV by the former vice president,” Moore told the Macon Telegraph

“Instead of answering that question straightforward, his immediate response was to attempt to invalidate me by exposing my inexperience.”

***

President Donald Trump arrives at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport for a campaign rally, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H.
Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Parachuting in

MANCHESTER, N.H. – President Donald Trump knows how to make an appearance.

On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, the president held a rally in Manchester before more than 12,000 eager Republicans – by far the biggest political crowd of the campaign season in the Granite State. 

He pulled the same move before the Iowa caucus, and echoed much of the same rhetoric as he did at that Des Moines visit. He blasted Democratic candidates as socialists and trumpeted Republicans as the “party of equal opportunity.” 

And he told the crowd to send a message to Democratic hopefuls: “Republicans are united. And in nine months we are going to take back the House of Representatives, we are going to keep the Senate and we are going to keep the White House.”

The president’s visit cut into primetime TV broadcasts – and swiped a share of the media attention devoted to the Democratic hopefuls. 

But there was another strategic reason for the visit: Trump lost New Hampshire by roughly 3,000 votes in 2016, and Republicans would love to put those four Electoral College votes in their column. 

***

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign rally at Keene State College in Keene, N.H., Feb. 8, 2020. Former Vice President Joe Biden and his campaign, under pressure after his poor performance in Iowa, mounted unusually personal attacks on Buttigieg ahead of the New Hampshire primary.
Photo: Tamir Kalifa/The New York Times

‘Dead center’

EXETER, N.H. – The two frontrunners relied on some star power to energize voters on the last day of campaigning before the vote.

In Rindge, Cynthia Nixon opened for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, telling the crowd that he had “dazzled” her. 

“He’s taken what used to be the far left of the Democratic Party and put it dead center.”

A few hours later, in Exeter, a surprise guest introduced Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Actor/director Kevin Costner, who cast the Democrat as a generational candidate and took a few shots at President Donald Trump.

“Children worry about getting credit. The leader of the free world can’t – and shouldn’t be – bothered. I see Pete having that kind of confidence, that kind of courage,” said Costner. “I see him having the wisdom and strength to understand when yesterday’s good ideas no longer apply.” 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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