MANCHESTER, N.H.—The main players in the 2020 presidential race were all in New Hampshire on Monday making their pitch to voters ahead of the Granite State's "first in the nation" primary. Elizabeth Warren was also here, persisting, and promoting her "intersectional policy," though no one seemed to care. She did, however, offer some cheery soundbites about not quitting that will be fun to recall when she inevitably does just that.
The male frontrunners, meanwhile, all chose fitting venues for their final rallies on the eve of Tuesday's primary. President Donald J. Trump, the recently acquitted incumbent, roused the MAGA faithful at the Southern New Hampshire University Arena in Manchester, just like old times. Some die-hard supporters waited more than 24 hours in the freezing rain to attend.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), the prohibitive favorite to win on Tuesday after (sort of) winning the Iowa caucuses, also packed an arena at the publicly funded University of New Hampshire in Durham. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) was in the house, as were The Strokes, a trendy rock band founded by trust fund kids. The Sanders crowd was younger, more energetic, and more prone to crowd surfing than those of his rivals.
The Strokes ended their show with "New York City Cops." The song, which includes the line "New York City cops, but they ain't too smart," was pulled from the band's 2001 album This Is It following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Some eager fans rushed the stage, prompting a futile attempt at intervention by some New Hampshire cops, who mostly just stood there impotently—like the Democratic establishment watching Bernie Sanders burn their party to the ground.
Pete Buttigieg, 38, the former South Bend mayor who studied abroad in Afghanistan, missed out on the coveted Strokes endorsement, but did manage to secure his own celebrity of fading relevance. Kevin Costner, star of Waterworld and Message in a Bottle, introduced Buttigieg at his rally in Exeter, N.H., down the road from one of the most prestigious (and expensive) prep schools in the country. Buttigieg worked hard to remind his core demographic of West Wing fans that, of all the candidates running, he would fit in best as a character on the show.
Former vice president Joe Biden, fresh off a humiliating fourth-place finish in Iowa and his first Sunday show appearance in more than three years, addressed a crowd of about 300 supporters at a Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester, just down the road from the Hanover Hill nursing home, which might have been a more efficient venue for the "rally." Fox News icon Sean Hannity warmed up the crowd by interviewing them on camera about Hunter Biden's exploits in Ukraine. One particularly zealous attendee tried to start a chant: "Keep Humanity." It didn't catch on.
Almost immediately after Biden took the stage, he was interrupted by a heckler demanding to know if "Creepy Joe" would ever apologize for "touching women and kids." The man was eventually escorted out, but not before loudly and repeatedly accusing the former VP of being a "pedo-filer." Biden continued unfazed, attempting to reassure his core demographic of voters who recognize his name from the Obama bumper sticker that he would do "just fine" in New Hampshire. Recent polling, however, suggests another fourth-place finish (or even fifth) is on the horizon.
A Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll published Sunday showed Sanders leading the field at 27 percent, with Buttigieg in second at 19 percent. A surging Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) was in third place at 14 percent, with Warren and Biden tied at 12 percent. A Sanders win in New Hampshire would solidify his status as the candidate to beat, and the favorite to win the nomination. It would also force the Democratic establishment to escalate its efforts to prevent that from happening.
Buttigieg, meanwhile, is hoping that a strong performance here will boost his odds to emerge as the "not Bernie Sanders" alternative, assuming he can avoid embarrassment in South Carolina later this month, given his statistically insignificant level of support among black voters. Mayor Pete, who is far more popular in rich white "boat shoe" strongholds, such as Nantucket, Cape Cod, and Martha's Vineyard, has been taking shots at Sanders over the enormous costs of his proposed reforms, such as Medicare for All.
The remaining candidates are just trying to keep their campaigns alive until Super Tuesday on March 3, at which point former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's name will start to appear on the ballot. Biden has long been a favorite to win in South Carolina, which votes on Feb. 29, but a second consecutive poor showing in New Hampshire might scare away primary voters keen to elect a winner to take on Trump.
Biden has ramped up his attacks on rival candidates in recent days. His campaign recently put out a digital ad mocking Buttigieg's experience as a small-town mayor who paved sidewalks with "decorative brick" while Biden was passing legislation in the Senate. Biden also dismissed a reporter's suggestion that his critiques of Buttigieg echoed those made by Hillary Clinton against her 2008 primary opponent Barack Obama. "Oh come on, man" Biden snapped. "This guy's not a Barack Obama."
Obama, for his part, continues to sit on the sidelines (and produce Oscar-winning documentaries) as the Democratic candidates duke it out. Not only has the former president refused to endorse his former running mate, he also tried to persuade Biden not to run. "You don't have to do this, Joe," Obama reportedly told Biden before the former VP launched his campaign. Perhaps he should have listened.
Biden received zero votes in the small village of Dixville Notch, N.H., which per tradition reported its primary results just after midnight on Tuesday morning. Sanders and Buttigieg received one vote each, but it was Bloomberg who won the day, leading all Democrats with two write-in votes, and even besting President Trump among the lone Republican voter.