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Warren, Biden Look To Move On After Disappointing Results In New Hampshire

Josh Rogers | NHPR
Joe Biden never stood on the stage at his Primary Night headquarters in Nashua - he left the state for South Carolina before the polls closed in New Hampshire.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg finished in the top two spots in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary last night, beating out two candidates who had, at various times over the last year, looked like front-runners: Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Now, their supporters are looking to move on from disappointing New Hampshire results.

Volunteer Michelle Johnson knocked on a lot of doors in Cheshire County for Senator Warren since the summer. And Tuesday night, she was hopeful all this face-to-face time with voters was going to pay off.

Credit Sarah Gibson | NHPR
Elizabeth Warren posed with supporters of Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders outside the polls in Manchester on Tuesday.

"I personally talked to a friend of mine today as he was exiting the poll - and he changed his position to Elizabeth - just by talking to someone who knew something about her plans, something about her history," she said.

And the Warren campaign was betting on this ground game too. It said it knocked on voters’ doors close to a million times here since June, bringing Warren’s message across the state.

For much of the campaign, that message focused on fighting corruption. But after Iowa, she changed her pitch to New Hampshire voters; the message now was one of unity, that she could bring the party together. But Donald Schwartz, a canvasser from Londonderry, said that line wasn’t working for the voters Warren needed to reach.

"Oh, they want a fighter. They want somebody somebody who can fight Trump and stand on a stage with him and not let him bully you like Hillary did," he said.

But as the numbers came in Tuesday night, showing Warren in a distant fourth place, she still stuck to this message of unity.

"We cannot afford to fall into factions," she said. "We can’t afford to squander our collective power. We win when we come together."

Credit Sarah Gibson | NHPR
Elizabeth Warren spoke to voters at a forum in Concord Saturday.

Warren said her campaign is still in it to win it. And Schwartz says he doesn’t see her giving up soon.

"As far as I can see, they got a team and a ground game for every state after here, so I think Elizabeth is in it for the long game," he said.

Another candidate also looking past New Hampshire to regain momentum is Biden. He actually left New Hampshire before the polls closed yesterday to campaign in South Carolina. But supporters still came to his election night party in Nashua, where former Gov. John Lynch defended Biden’s choice. 

Credit Sara Plourde | NHPR
Former Gov. John Lynch talks to NHPR's Maureen McMurray at Joe Biden's Primary Night headquarters in Nashua.

"He did everything he could do in New Hampshire. He loves New Hampshire," Lynch said. "He loves New Hampshire being first-in-the-nation primary. But it’s time to move on." 

Speaking via video from South Carolina to a subdued crowd of about a hundred, Biden told supporters here he’d be back to New Hampshire to defeat President Trump in November, but there was a lot of work ahead. 

"We are in the battle for the soul of the nation. Now, Jill and I are moving on to Nevada and South Carolina and beyond," he said. 

Biden had indicated in recent days that he didn’t expect to do well in New Hampshire, but his fifth place finish Tuesday was still a far cry from where polls showed him last summer. 

Credit Sara Plourde | NHPR
Supporters at Joe Biden's Primary Night headquarters watched Biden deliver a speech in South Carolina via livestream.

Former state Sen. Bette Lasky said she thinks Biden’s early popularity hurt his campaign.

"Through the summer, when he was leading, I think maybe everyone was a little complacent that everyone knew Joe and knew what he could do, so that may have played a part in it," she said.

What played a part in the distant finish for both Biden and Warren is up for debate. Now that the primary is over, their New Hampshire supporters will have plenty of time to wonder. 

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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