Sanders still the New Hampshire favorite as Buttigieg, Klobuchar show momentum

The major candidates for the Democratic nomination for President pinballed their way around New Hampshire on Saturday and Sunday, bidding for a late rush of support in a key primary which could further winnow the 2020 presidential field, altering the makeup of part of the Democrat race.

I caught all of the top five candidates over the weekend all across the Granite State, two days of driving which provided a lot of answers to what's going on right now in the 2020 Democratic Party battle.

Let's go candidate by candidate on how things looked this weekend.

+ Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

It doesn't take long to recognize that Sanders has a strong base of support in New Hampshire. He has been campaigning up here for the past two elections. He is from next door in Vermont, and he won easily here in 2016 over Hillary Clinton.  Sanders should be the favorite on Tuesday. But the Vermont Senator is not acting like the favorite, as he bounced around this state Saturday and Sunday, capping it with a big rally at Keene State College, which the Sanders campaign said was the largest of this 2020 cycle. In recent days, Sanders introduced some new lines to his stump speech, accusing Pete Buttigieg of being beholden to big Wall Street donors, and taking aim at former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Sanders ends his Granite State campaign with a rally in Durham.

+ Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

If there is one candidate who could threaten Sanders for an upset victory, the most likely person is South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Whether he can actually knock off Sanders on Tuesday is a different story, but it is clear that Buttigieg has been drawing bigger crowds after his top finish in the Iowa Caucuses. After getting almost 1,000 people to a rally in Keene on Saturday, Buttigieg blew that away with over 1,800 in Nashua on Sunday morning. "We can't wait to put that chaos behind us," Buttigieg told the crowd. "We can't wait to put the tweets behind us, right?" Buttigieg had help on Saturday from actor Michael J. Fox, who poked fun at President Donald J. Trump ("The 'J' stands for 'genius'), and Sanders ("Why are you yelling at me, Bernie?) Buttigieg finishes Monday night with a rally in Exeter.

+ Elizabeth Warren.

I covered two Warren events in recent days. Both were well attended (500 and 750 people), and the Massachusetts Senator clearly has a strong core of support in the Granite State. But the polls have been middling of late for Warren, raising questions about where she might finish in a race which is basically in her back yard. Unable to get much of spark in last Friday's debate, Warren has been emphasizing organization and get-out-the-vote efforts in recent days. There was one odd moment at her Sunday rally in the state capital of Concord, when the words "New Hampshire" did not roll off of her tongue, as she was urging voters to help propel her to the White House. "And it is up to you, Massachusetts," Warren said, finally realizing a few seconds later that she had mentioned the wrong state. I was also struck by how several of the questions for her at the rally came from people who did not live in New Hampshire.  Warren finishes her Granite State campaign in Portsmouth.

+ Joe Biden.

I caught up with Biden on Sunday at Alvirne High School in Hudson. This was of the most unusual campaign stops I have ever covered.  It started normally, as a woman who introduced Biden spoke of the medical troubles of her son, and why it was important for her to save the Obama health law.  The story though immediately sparked memories for Biden in dealing with the terminal cancer of his son Beau. The former Vice President clearly felt a wave of emotion - his voice quivered for a moment as he pulled himself together. Biden found his footing, but there was a hush over the event for a good 15 minutes.  Once he got going, instead of going after fellow Democrats - as he had in recent days - he turned his fire on President Trump. "What in God's name is happening to us?" Biden said, his voice rising. Later on, a woman in the audience laid bare the feeling of some voters. "I love you, a lot," she told Biden. "But I am undecided." On Friday, Biden didn't give New Hampshire supporters much to hope for, as he said at the start of the ABC News debate that he did not expect to win on Tuesday.  Biden wraps up his campaign efforts with a rally Monday night in Manchester, just as President Trump arrives for his own rally.

+ Amy Klobuchar.

While Biden and Warren seemed to be unable to generate momentum at campaign rallies this weekend, that was not the case with Klobuchar, who saw her crowds suddenly spike after a positive debate performance on Friday night. Some tracking polls also indicated an uptick in support. "We went to four diners this morning," Klobuchar proudly told her final rally of the day in Salem. "I can barnstorm this state," she added, openly appealing to independent and more moderate Republican voters who are turned off by President Trump. "This election is a decency check on this President," Klobuchar said. A strong finish by the Minnesota Senator still remains a long shot, but it was obvious that a number of New Hampshire voters were giving her a serious look this final weekend. My experience in covering every New Hampshire Primary since 1992 tells me that you don't suddenly go from small crowds to drawing over a thousand people - just because.  Klobuchar ends her campaign with a rally in Rochester.

About the Author