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The N.H. Primary Isn't Until Next Year, But Democrats Are Campaigning Like It's The Final Stretch

josh rogers / nhpr



A Sunday morning at 8:30, months out from an election isn’t - at least on paper – prime time for any candidate to fill a room,

Yet, this Cory Booker house party in Bedford, New Hampshire is packed

"It is Sunday morning, so forgive me if I sound a little pastoral," Booker opens, "But Abraham was said to be favored by God, and to have got the blessings of many nations because he kept his tent open on all four sides, so people would feel welcome from whatever direction they came from."

New Hampshire is feeling a little bit like Abraham’s tent these days. The flaps are open and would-be presidents are making themselves at home.

In the past 10 days, there’s been Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bennet, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Warren and John Delaney. 

According to Neil Levesque. it's never been busier. He should know, as he directs the NH Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, a frequent stop for candidates.

“Right now with eight months to go, we are seeing the activity that we normally see about four weeks out from the presidential primary,” he says.

For local politicos with a stake in the New Hampshire Primary, the sort whose endorsement presidential hopefuls are taught to covet, 2020, with its early pace, and swelling field, is full of promise.

“I’ll tell you it’s like the Kentucky derby and we got some good runners in it,” says state Senator Lou D’Allesandro.

D'Allesandro also thinks self-styled kingmakers will need to put in some serious work to make it to primary day intact. 

“You’ve got to tough it out, because with the number of people running, if you are really conscientious about getting to know them, you’ve got to stick in there and keep pitching.”

Credit allegra boverman for NHPR
An overflow crowd awaits Pete Buttigeig at a recent campaign stop in Manchester

Candidates will also need to take the long view to survive.

"You get up here it looks like an awful lot of people in this room."

That was South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg during a recent stop at a Concord Bookstore, which did, in fact, attract a lot of people.

Democratic strategist Karen Hicks has worked on several presidential campaigns in New Hampshire. She’s says in 2020, the traditional mode of organizing here – wooing core party activists and leveraging their loyalty to attract others – may not apply.

She’s says Democrats’ anxiety over picking a candidate to take on President Trump, and their range of options, will keep things very fluid.

“It’s sort of a polygamy situation with the campaign and the voters here, I think people will give money and time to two or three of them.”

Voters like Bryan and Kristen Bannister, who are starting to put in time with candidates, are finding it crowded. I met them near the door at the Cory Booker house party, which was being propped open to accommodate the large crowd.  

"We tried to go see Buttigieg..."


"...last night"


"...and we were closed out. There were too many people there."

“My hunch is there will be this frenzy and then it will kind settle down as the candidates establish a pecking order," Kristen tells me, and Bryan finishes the thought:

“But it feels very positive it feels like there is a real sense of commitment in the Democratic Party, and there is a real sense of we’ve got to do this.”

And the challenge facing candidates, voters, and anyone else with a stake in the primary here, will be to maintain that urgency over the long slog to come.

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