2020: From Nevada On To South Carolina

Feb 21, 2020

We recap results from caucuses in Nevada with political observers and journalists on the ground in Nevada as they pivot to South Carolina primary on Saturday, Feb. 29. We gauge the impact of last week's debate and consider voter turnout in these states, widely recognized as being more diverse than New Hampshire or Iowa.   Air Date: Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 

GUESTS:

  • Chris Galdieri - Assistant Professor, Department of Politics, Saint Anselm College.  
  • James Pindell – Political reporter for The Boston Globe.
  • Maayan Schechter -  Statehouse reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. 

Transcript:

This is a computer-generated transcript, and may contain errors. 

 

 

Peter Biello:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Peter Biello in for Laura Knoy. And this is The Exchange

Peter Biello:
Senator Bernie Sanders has won the first three primary contests, having won the Nevada caucuses over the weekend, but the rest of the field has not yet given up hope. And with both South Carolina's primary and Super Tuesday elections around the corner, there is more to discuss. Before the Democrats nominate someone to take on President Donald Trump in the general election, this hour, a look back in Nevada and last week's debate and look forward to what's to come for Democrats as voters inch closer to choosing a nominee.

Peter Biello:
And joining us this hour, Chris Galdieri, assistant professor in the Department of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Chris, thank you very much for being here.

Chris Galdieri:
Glad to be here, Peter.

Peter Biello:
And we'll have more guests later in the program to lend their voice to the conversation. But we'll start with Chris and let's start with the debate. The debate last week in Las Vegas, shortly before the Nevada caucuses. Before we get into what was said, what do you think? How important is one debate right before an election in that same state?

Chris Galdieri:
Debates can really matter in primary elections, especially when you have a large field of candidates like the Democrats still do, because you don't have necessarily huge policy differences between candidates the way you do in a general election. You don't have the benefit of party identification to help voters make their decision because you have a group of people from the same party competing. So debate performances for people who decide late and lots of people decide late in these primary contests really can make a big difference.

Peter Biello:
And so let's talk particulars about this debate. What was your overall takeaway?

Chris Galdieri:
Well, I think the biggest headline probably was the amount of attacks directed at former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He had had a very good run in the, you know, weeks since Iowa by keeping the Super Tuesday field to himself. Right. He's been made mostly on the air in Super Tuesday states where there are not a lot of other candidates running or campaigning yet. And it's slowly been moving up in the polls. And I think a lot of folks were looking at him and wondering, like, how much of a factor is he going to be in this election contest? And I think you had in that debate the on the air candidacy of Bloomberg sort of colliding with the reality of Bloomberg, which is that he is, you know, whatever you might think of him as a former mayor or as a candidate, You know, he's rusty. He was someone who has not been in a debate since, I think, 2009. Last time he ran for re-election as mayor on a stage with a half dozen people who had been debating each other for the better part of a year now. So it wasn't surprising to me that he seemed a bit, you know, didn't have quite as fancy footwork as the folks who have been debating each other this whole cycle.

Peter Biello:
And you can you can buy debate practice, which is surprising that maybe if he did that, maybe not enough debate practice?

Chris Galdieri:
Could be. Could be. And, you know, you can buy it. But you you can't you don't necessarily like it. He was never somebody who was that who was a, you know, fantastic debater. A lot of folks have said there are sort of two Bloombergs. There's the smart technocrat. And then there's the sort of peevish, kind of boring guy. And I think we saw which one of them showed up for the debate last week.

Peter Biello:
Well, let's hear a little bit of it. Senator Bernie Sanders singled out Mike Bloomberg both for past practices as a mayor and for his wealth in order to beat Donald Trump.

News Sound: Bernie Sanders:
We're going to need the largest voter turnout in the history of the United States. Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop and frisk, which went after African-American and Latino people in an outrageous way. That is not a way you're going to grow voter turnout. What our movement is about is bringing working class people together, black and white and Latino, Native American, Asian-American, around an agenda that works for all of us and not just the billionaire class.

Peter Biello:
So Senator Bernie Sanders, there going on the attack on Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Two issues there I want to talk about separately. The first is, is specific to Bloomberg: stop and frisk. How much of a liability is that for him?

Chris Galdieri:
I think it's potentially a big one. As Senator Sanders said, you know, this is a policy that really did seem to disproportionately affect African-American and non-white citizens in New York City and the Democratic primaries. First in Nevada and now in South Carolina upcoming and then Super Tuesday are moving away from the very white states of Iowa and New Hampshire into states that have much more diverse electorates. And I think if you were going into a state like South Carolina or after South Carolina in Super Tuesday, you have states like. Virginia, Texas, California. You know, very diverse states. That's not necessarily a policy you want people to associate with you. And it's I think it's tough for Bloomberg to distance himself from that. And he said he's said that. Oh gosh, it got out of hand. But that makes it sound like it was his own it's own thing rather than a policy that he implemented.

Peter Biello:
And just to be clear, Bloomberg was not on the ballot in Nevada.

Chris Galdieri:
That's right.

Peter Biello:
That's why he didn't get any results. Right. From.

Chris Galdieri:
Wasn't on the ballot in Nevada. And he won't be in South Carolina. He doesn't appear on a ballot until Super Tuesday.

Peter Biello:
That's where he's been throwing most of his money toward Super Tuesday states.

Peter Biello:
During that debate, he did respond. Mayor Bloomberg did respond to Bernie Sanders and had this to say.

News Sound: Mike Bloomberg:
I don't think there's any chance of the senator beating President Trump. You don't start out by saying, I've got one hundred and sixty million people. I'm going to take away the insurance plan that they love. That's just not a ways that you go and start building the coalition that the sand camp thinks that they can do. I don't think there's any chance whatsoever. And if he goes and is the candidate, we will have Donald Trump for another four years. And we can't stand that.

Peter Biello:
This is not a view held uniquely by Bloomberg and his supporters that the policies of Bernie Sanders may be a liability for him, according to some. That's right.

Chris Galdieri:
And you heard this from you've heard this from, you know, from Joe Biden saying, well, how are you going to pay for it? You've heard it from other candidates like me or Boobage saying, you know, Medicare for all who want it would be great, but you don't want to force everybody into a Medicare option and that sort of thing. And I think there's some validity, validity to that. Even if you were to have a Sanders administration, his ability to pass a health care plan would be limited by whoever the most conservative Democrat in the Senate was. And that's likely to be somebody like Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Kirsten Cinema of Arizona. And they seem like unlikely candidates to cast votes for a full on Medicare for all type plan on day one of a Sanders administration. So, yeah, I think I think this is an attack that you can expect to hear continuing throughout the primaries and if Sanders is the nominee into the general election.

Peter Biello:
And so he was the clear winner. Bernie Sanders was the clear winner out of Nevada. He's the delegate leader, although there haven't been many delegates allocated yet. So what do you make of his momentum? Is this going to carry forward? It might.

Chris Galdieri:
You know, clearly, you know, he's in a better position than any of his rivals at this point. You know, clearly meant clear winner in Nevada, a narrow winner in New Hampshire. Iowa was, you know, depending on how you look at it, it was him or Buttigieg. And you know, a win is a win is a win. And this was his first big win of the cycle. That said, you know, it struck me listening to his comment earlier that you played talking about how we would win by building a movement, raising voter turnout and all the rest of it. And that hasn't really quite happened yet. So far, you haven't seen the sorts of massive turnout spikes that you'd expect from somebody who was leading a mass movement. It was going to just totally transform a political party or the country's politics. You're seeing, you know, fairly modest turnout boosts from 2016, from 2008 that are more consistent just with growing populations or in the case in Nevada. They added about a week's worth of early voting before caucus day. So, you know, you're not seeing the sort of, you know, youthquake turnout surge that you might have expected just based on the rhetoric from Sanders and his campaign all throughout this race.

Peter Biello:
We got a note from someone who said we shouldn't say that, that Bernie won the first three. Not true Buttigieg when Iowa. You just said that there's a little bit of a confusion over Iowa. Why is that?

Chris Galdieri:
It's because of how well Iowa is a caucus state. And what that means is it's not a direct question of who will got the most votes. It's a question of allocation and distribution where your votes were in that sort of thing.

Chris Galdieri:
So I believe Mayor Buttigieg came out of Iowa with more delegates, although the Sanders campaign maintains that they have received more support from individual caucus goers in Iowa.

Chris Galdieri:
But again, when you're trying to figure, especially trying to figure out the Iowa caucus, you get into all sorts of complicated issues of, well, where is your support and how many delegates were in this precinct versus that precinct? And that's part of the reason we're not quite sure exactly who's ahead and who's not in Iowa.

Peter Biello:
Thank you for clearing that up. We get this comment also from Christopher in Manchester, who says The commentariat class was tripping over themselves, lauding Liz Warren after the debate. Didn't seem to help her in the caucus, though. Is her day in the sun done? That's from Christopher Manchester.

Chris Galdieri:
That's a good question. I think part of what has hurt Elizabeth Warren is that early voting that Nevada had won. Issues with caucuses is that they are difficult to attend. They require a fairly lengthy commitment. If you have to work during caucus time, you can't go. It's not like voting where you carve a half hour out of your day or an hour out of your day and you go vote at your convenience and come home and do it. So one issue to address that in Nevada was to add days of early voting. The problem with early voting is if something changes like a really good debate performance, you've already cast your vote. You can't go back and change that. There is some evidence, I believe, that Warren did much better amongst folks who cast their ballots on Friday at the caucus than folks who did an early caucus vote. So there may have been some effect from from the debates she had when a lot of people thought was a very strong debate performance. I don't know that that's going to help her in South Carolina, but she seems to be committed to staying in through Super Tuesday. You know, she had a big rally in Denver over the weekend. And doesn't she seem to show any signs of wanting to drop out of the race yet.

Peter Biello:
I want to hear a little bit of Elizabeth Warren from that debate. She really came out swinging against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Let's hear what she had to say to him.

News Sound: Elizabeth Warren:
I'd like to talk about who were running against a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse faced lesbians. And no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg. Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk. Look, I'll support whoever the Democratic nominee is, but understand this. Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another. This country has worked for the rich for a long time and left everyone else in the dirt.

Peter Biello:
So Elizabeth Warren not mincing words there. And I guess that's why, as as Christopher was pointing out, people really seem to admire what she did at the debate.

Chris Galdieri:
Yeah. And I think if you're Elizabeth Warren, I mean, there's no greater gift you can be given on a debate stage than than Mike Bloomberg, because, you know, he just put plays, too. And this is case for Bernie Sanders as well. He just plays to everything that she's been talking about her entire campaign. And then the fact that while he didn't do the early states, he's strategically focusing on Super Tuesday and going up on the air with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ads. I think, you know, for Elizabeth Warren, that was just such a such a slow, low softball, underhand pitch that she just couldn't resist hitting it very, very hard.

Peter Biello:
Well, listeners, let us know what you think of both this debate and the results of the Nevada caucuses. If your chosen candidate has dropped out since New Hampshire's primary, where's your support now? And is there a Democrat that you would absolutely refuse to vote for in the general?

Peter Biello:
We'll bring your voice into the conversation that way. And we get this note from Johnny. Johnny writes, According to the Nevada caucus rules, a candidate must capture 15 percent of the votes in order to receive delegates. As of this morning, with 96 percent of the districts reported, Pete Buttigieg has just over 13 percent. Why is it being reported that he will receive 2 delegates coming out of Nevada?

Peter Biello:
It might depend on what you. Well, you're looking right now, I'm not sure. Maybe this is a fast moving calculation and not quite final yet. But the what I have is that Buttigieg has one delegate. He's in third behind Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. But what do you think, Chris?

Chris Galdieri:
Well, it's not necessarily just 15 percent statewide. It has to do with where delegates are allocated. So there are statewide delegates there, delegates that are allocated at the congressional district level. I believe that states also get additional delegates depending on how they vote in the last election. How many Democratic officeholders they have and so on.

Chris Galdieri:
So it may be that while Mayor Buttigieg fell short of 15 percent statewide, that there were individual precincts or districts where he did cross that threshold and was able to pick up a delegate or two.

Peter Biello:
I want to bring another voice into the conversation now. Let's let's talk to James Pindell. He's a political reporter for The Boston Globe. James, thank you very much for being on the line with us. Really appreciate it.

James Pindell:
Of course

Peter Biello:
We've been speaking as sort of getting down into the weeds a little bit about the debate and the following the Nevada caucuses. Want to get your general sense. What do you make of the results coming out of Nevada?

James Pindell:
Look, this is quickly becoming a race for Bernie Sanders to lose. Nevada was a pivotal contest in 2016. We don't talk about it enough. It was the moment that Hillary Clinton sort of righted the ship after losing to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire by 22 points. And I think that Nevada well, we will look back, will also be the most. Pivotal contest as well. When you look back and say, oh, right, this is the moment where Bernie Sanders began to have significant momentum, we're beginning to be very obvious where and how he would be the Democratic nominee. And so we're now having experiencing a moment from some in the Democratic establishment, a freak out. Some of those who believe that Sanders is too far left to win a general election. I could counterpoint that and then Bernie Sanders would counterpoint that as well. But it may be almost too late to stop that momentum. We're heading into South Carolina on Thursday. And I think that South Carolina has been entirely overblown this entire cycle. I understand the argument. The first time a real large African-American electorate gets to weigh in, in in in those in the South and is electability. And I understand all that. But there's a counterpoint to that, which is to simply process, not that they're wrong. It's process. South Carolina is three days before Super Tuesday. So, yeah, Joe Biden had a good performance, I guess, in Nevada coming coming in second place. That's good for him, given where he started out in Iowa and in New Hampshire. But he also lost by 30 points on it. And if he does well in South Carolina and that's an if he is taking while Bernie Sanders is surging there. All right. He doesn't have enough time to raise the money, to cut the ads, to buy the ads before Super Tuesday, where I do believe Bernie Sanders is just going to swamp everyone, including in the two largest states in the country of California and Texas.

Peter Biello:
I see, Chris, your thoughts on what James had to say?

Chris Galdieri:
Well, I don't know that James is wrong necessarily. I do think there's a possibility that, you know, if Biden does surprise everybody with a big win in South Carolina or that some of these other candidates who are sitting around, you know, drop out after a poor showing in South Carolina. You know, I I do think there's something to the idea that, you know, once you get a certain head of steam in these sorts of things, it's tough to stop someone. On the other hand. I look at things like, you know, Bernie Sanders comments to 60 Minutes over the weekend about, well, you know, Castro's Cuba did have a great literacy program, that sort of thing. And I watch the reaction of Democrats to that.

Peter Biello:
Can you say what that was?

Chris Galdieri:
Sure. Sure.

Chris Galdieri:
Yeah, it was during an interview with 60 Minutes. And it was something to the effect of saying that while Sanders condemned, you know, the authoritarian aspects of Castro's regime, it's not that everything that happened under Castro was bad. For instance, when he came to power, they started a literacy program. And that's the sort of, you know, incredibly tone deaf sort of thing that makes me wonder if there might not be more impetus for a, you know, stop Sanders movement or a for everyone to just say, whoa, wait a second. Maybe Joe Biden's not so bad after all sort of thing. I don't know. I don't think that, you know, I would rather be Bernie Sanders than any of the other candidates in the field right now in terms of winning the nomination. But I look at that sort of self-imposed injury and, you know, wonder if that will affect the calculations of the other candidates. I see.

Peter Biello:
Let's talk to Fred in Nashua. Fred, thanks for calling.

Peter Biello:
What's your question? you're on the air.

Caller:
Ok. Well, I just want to comment about Britney and I've often written about our don't like Trump and need to be at peace, but given a choice between Trump and Bernie, I'd vote for Trump any time.

Peter Biello:
Why is that?

Caller:
I think Bernie would destroy our democracy as it is. He would do everlasting damage. And all you have to do is look at the face of Soviet revolution in 1979 when they got rid of all do it all the guillotines. You got an absolute communist socialist takeover. They want everything for free. Everything for free.

Peter Biello:
I see. OK, thank you very much, Fred. Appreciate your call. So that may have been getting at what you were talking about. There's some people who were just really, really worried about what Bernie Sanders wants to do.

James Pindell:
Can I just jump in here?

Peter Biello:
Yeah. Oh, sure, sure. Go ahead, James.

James Pindell:
This is never going to happen. The fear at him from Nashua. I mean, you know, a lot of what Bernie Sanders is going to is arguing for is never gonna happen.

Peter Biello:
Which things do you think will never happen?

James Pindell:
Well, look, Medicare for all. I mean, you know, he has been hammered on the fact that he has never spelled out exactly how you would pay for it.

James Pindell:
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren did and got slammed. Here's the truth. President Trump is not building a wall.

James Pindell:
So it doesn't matter if he says Mexico is gonna pay for it. Right now, Medicare for all has basically no support among Democrats, even in the Senate. It's not going to happen. So it doesn't matter exactly how you're going to pay for the idea that he's going to suddenly become president.

James Pindell:
And as the caller mentioned, one, it's communist, which is not. But number two, that divided his free college is going to happen. It's not happening. Medicare for all, is not happening. There's no trajectory. There's no political argument as to how these things are going to happen. We are having an intellectual conversation about ideology and about where you coming from. Elizabeth Warren, by the way, her tactic of how she's different than Bernie Sanders is that, one, she would get rid of a filibuster, which I mean, that's that's what we're at here to take a intellectual conversation. And second, that she would sign things like the U.S. into a new NAFTA or he's against it. She says it's progress and then she'll work for more progress. In terms of like big picture free college, wiping out student debt, and

James Pindell:
he does he his plan is somehow to tax while Wall Street speculation. There's 60 votes in the Senate for that. They're not even the votes of Democrats for that. So while I do agree with the caller from Nashua that President Trump is absolutely going to use these lines and try to use it against Bernie Sanders as any politician would. The idea that if he comes president, we're going to have people headed to the guillotine. That's ridiculous.

Peter Biello:
And Chris, do you agree? Is Medicare for all free college for everybody not going to happen?

Chris Galdieri:
I mean, I think there are tremendous obstacles to doing that sort of thing. As James said, you know, the votes just aren't aren't going to be there in the Senate for it. So then the question becomes, well, how do you climb down from those positions? You know, how does a President Sanders, for the sake of argument. Does he introduce Medicare for all and take a loss? Does he pass some sort of small ball reform and call it a win? Does do his supporters stand by him after that? You know, one of the kind of remarkable things about the Sanders movement in 2016, 2020 has been the strength in the fervor of his online supporters to those folks. Stick with him if he has to act like a normal politician and say, well, we didn't get half a loaf, but we got a third of a loaf and that's pretty good. I'm gonna sign it and move on. As, for instance, Senator Warner said she would have done with the trade agreement. And I think that's really an open question as to whether, you know, Bernie Sanders supporters would stick with him if he had to act like a politician.

James Pindell:
I think Bernie Sanders is being serious. He's not lying. He definitely once these plants. He definitely thinks they're a good idea. He's being very serious about it. Just politically speaking, do you take it to the next level that people look ahead to the guillotines that we're gonna have a communist country? It's just that it's not going to happen.

Peter Biello:
Let's talk to Taylor in Nashua. Taylor, thank you very much for calling. You're on the air.

Caller:
Hello.

Peter Biello:
Hi, what's your question?

Caller:
So I heard you asked me earlier if there was a a Democrat candidate that I wouldn't vote for if they won the nomination and going back to 2016. I primary voted for Bernie and reluctantly voted for Hillary in the 2016 election. But I don't know if I could do the same for someone like Bloomberg, who represents literally all of the same things that I don't like about Trump and can't stand and just in a kind of more acceptable packaging to some establishment Democrats. I don't know if I could vote for that person.

Peter Biello:
Thank you, Taylor. Really appreciate your comment. I don't think we've heard from you yet, James. On Mike Bloomberg's candidacy, what do you make of his candidacy?

James Pindell:
Very interesting comment from Taylor, because what's happening here is that it's not is that those who are supporting Bloomberg and his numbers are absolutely going up. It's not because they think he's right on issues. It's because they're already compromising. So when we have new issues, for example, that he didn't handle sexual harassment claims that his company very well. If he wanted to bring up, again, stop and frisk, look, totally legit issues or the support for George W. Bush for president in the past, things that do not go well with the Democratic base, the Democratic base, those who are already with Bloomberg say, I know. And I don't agree with it. However, they think he's the only one left who can actually defeat Trump for various reasons. And a big reason is his checkbook.

James Pindell:
Remember, Oprah is worth $2.8 billion. That's a lot of money. He's worth 64, 64 billion dollars. Yeah.

James Pindell:
And so folks have already compromised. But this is where the debate and particularly the debate tomorrow night really matters because it's not like, oh, I gotcha. On a on a political issue where you're flip flopping. It's if you're really a bad debater, then maybe you aren't the person we should put up against Trump. This is the argument among the Democratic base. So that, you know, his feelings about Bloomberg is something I certainly hear all the time that it could pretty much go for everyone except for maybe Bernie and other people are saying, well, maybe not Bloomberg. Obviously, Sanders had his own problem answering that question on 60 Minutes last night, saying that, yes, Bloomberg would have some flaws. But the interesting thing about him is this. Again, it's not like a normal candidate where you're like, oh, well, I didn't realize that person was horrible on my issue. It's like I just didn't know that person. So horrible going on debate stage.

Peter Biello:
We were talking about the presidential nomination process, which has left New Hampshire, but is still underway in other key states ahead of Super Tuesday. What are you worried about? What are you watching for? This is The Exchange I'm Peter Biello. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
This is the exchange on NHP. I'm Peter Biello, filling in today for Laura Knoy. And right now, we are looking at the presidential nomination process. We're looking forward to South Carolina, which holds its primary election on Saturday, February twenty ninth. And shortly after that, we've got states on Super Tuesday, early March. Joining us for the conversation today, Chris Galdieri, assistan assistant professor in the Department of Politics at Saint Anselm College, and James Pindell, political reporter for The Boston Globe. And on the line with us now is Maayan Schechter, statehouse reporter for the state newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. She's going to give us the lay of the land down south. Mike, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

Maayan Schechter:
Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.

Peter Biello:
So the primaries coming up this Saturday. Remind us why South Carolina is such a key state for Democrats.

Maayan Schechter:
Sure. I mean, South Carolina is the first Southern primary. This is the real test for candidates to see how they fare among African-American voters. We are the South Carolina Democratic Party. Primary voting bloc is two thirds and more than 60 percent African-American. This is the best test for candidates, especially as they move into Super Tuesday states, which are more reflective of South Carolina's demographics. We are very different from Iowa, New Hampshire, where the majority of voters there are white. And we're also different from the state of Nevada, where the majority of the Democratic voters are Hispanic and Latino. So this certainly is a really important base for these candidates who are hoping to get some momentum heading into those more diverse Super Tuesday states.

Peter Biello:
And who is doing well in South Carolina right now?

Maayan Schechter:
Well, if you ask each individual candidate, I'm sure they'll tell you that they are. Yeah, but no, I you know, right now most Democrats will tell you that former Vice President Joe Biden is still considered the favorite to win the primary on Saturday. But certainly with with disappointing losses for Biden in Iowa, New Hampshire and coming even in second in Nevada, that's hurt him a little bit. And it's shown in the polls here, especially as Senator Bernie Sanders has done well in those early, early states and is the front runner in national polls. Last week, I went to a poll that came out, showed fighting the 24 percent support among likely Democratic voters here. And Sanders was not that far behind at 19 percent. That margin has steadily been been shrinking. And California businessman Tom Steyer has been holding third, which is very unusual compared with some of the other early voting states and national polling as well. He's been holding third at around 15 to 18 percent. So it's certainly a much more competitive race here on the ground than I would have said, you know, five, six months ago.

Peter Biello:
What is it about Tom Steyer that that puts him in that position?

Maayan Schechter:
Well, first and foremost, he's. He's obviously been able to spend a lot of money here on the ground. He has spent millions of dollars on digital and TV airwaves. He has spent money in black owned media. He's been taking out full page ads in college newspapers. And keep in mind, you've been on the airwaves here for longer than a year, way longer than any of the other candidates, especially because this need to impeach. Sure. Or campaign that he started over over a year and a half ago. But it's not just that when you talk to voters on the ground, it's really that accessibility that Tom Steyer brings. I mean, Tom Stiers, unlike some of these other candidates who were, you know, had to sit sit in D.C. for a few weeks dealing with impeachment or or other candidates who have had to fly across the country doing fundraisers. He's in a unique position.

Maayan Schechter:
So he certainly disrupted the race here, especially for for someone like Biden, who hasn't been on the ground as much, who hasn't been spending as much money on on airwaves as well. So it's it's it's been an interesting race so far.

Peter Biello:
And what would you make of folks like Buttigieg? And Amy Klobuchar. Where do they stand? And in South Carolina, thus far.

Maayan Schechter:
They they are pretty far down in the polls here. I mean, they they they do have a support system. People judge has has been on the ground a few times or several times throughout the past year. He has come out with ads.

He's got a pretty substantial staff here on the ground.

Maayan Schechter:
But he and Klobuchar suffer from the same problem, and that is black voters support. I mean, together they they total about 5 percent support among black voters. And that was always going to be a problem with them. And when you have someone like Joe Biden in the race who has a long relationship with South Carolina, when you have someone like Bernie Sanders in the race who, of course, ran in 2016 and started building that foundation here, it's going to be tough for either one of them. Klobuchar is interesting. She hasn't really invested a whole lot in South Carolina. She visited a few times over the past year. She just started staffing up here like a week out until the primary. So this was always going to be a struggle for them. Then it'll be interesting to see what would happen Saturday.

Peter Biello:
Buttigieg sat down with The State earlier in February. And I do want to play a little bit of his voice.

News Sound: Pete Buttigieg:
I'm also talking to a lot of voters, especially black voters who are deeply pragmatic, want somebody who is going to win recognizing the urgency of defeating Donald Trump. And so I'm also very mindful that part of how you establish credibility with voters here is to do well in the very first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. And there I think a lot of voters who won't really be unlocked for us until we've been able to have that show of strength, as I believe we will.

Peter Biello:
So, Pete. Buttigieg hoping to unlock South Carolina voters based on his performance in earlier states. How true does that ring for you? Mine it can. South Carolina voters be unlocked by shows of support in other states.

Maayan Schechter:
You know, there's a lot of comparisons that happen between 2020 and 2008, and this is just a very, very different election. We have very, very different candidates running for office. When I talk to voters, they don't particualr. I mean, they're interested in what is what is going on in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada. But frankly, they're very well aware that the demographics are just so different. And it doesn't it doesn't hurt to repeat that when, you know, your your lawmakers are going on cable television and they're talking about that all the time. But how different are our voting demographics here or anywhere else? This is a different election. And so most of the time. I mean, yes, there are undecided voters who are still kind of choosing between a couple of candidates. But again, I haven't been told that in this particular contest that what has happened in the other voting states is having a huge impact. Now, if you're Bernie Sanders, who has been doing very, very well, and you're someone that has been on the fence of whether to support Bernie Sanders. Sure. He looks like a very viable candidate right now heading into South Carolina.

Peter Biello:
You've written about how this primary could impact local elections down the ballot and how a lot of politicians in the Democratic Party are thinking carefully about their endorsements. So can you tell us what they're worried about?

Maayan Schechter:
They're worried about Bernie Sanders. They're worried about this. This self-identification as a democratic socialist. I mean, there is a lot of concern on the ground from Democrats here who have run local races, who have run congressional races about what the impact could be of having Bernie Sanders at the top of the ticket. I think it's why you've seen Joe Biden keep a judge recently raised this this issue of how he identifies himself within the Democratic Party. And I'm sure you'll certainly hear that repeated on the debate stage on Tuesday night in Charleston. It's a big issue. South Carolina for the first time has had several Democrats running in an increasingly competitive seat. And the one in particular that most people point to is in the first district. That's Joe Cunningham's district. Joe Cunningham is a moderate Democrat who who won a seat held by Republicans for a very long time and was held by Mark Sanford, the former the former governor of South Carolina, for several years. And that is a seat that Democrats are very worried about giving up, but it's not even just signed. Jamie Harrison, the former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, is hoping to unseat longtime Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. We have another Democrat running in the second district. I mean, it goes down and down, down and it even goes all the way into state House seats. We have a couple of state House seats that are competitive, especially in that Charleston First District area that Democrats within the party are concerned are concerned about. Congressman Jim Clyburn also expressed that concern and sit down with reporters, including myself yesterday. So this this is going to be an issue that I think we're going to keep hearing about, especially heading into Tuesday or tomorrow's debate. But especially heading into the primary, I would not be shocked to hear candidates particularly biting and knocking this issue over and over.

Peter Biello:
I see. And what is the prediction if there's a prediction about how turnout is going to be in South Carolina?

Maayan Schechter:
Oh, it's so hard. Anybody's guess at this point.

Maayan Schechter:
Yeah. I mean, I think so. I know. But the majority of our Democratic Party electorate, like I said, is African-American. They're older voters. And these older voters tend to show up and they tend to vote. We're still kind of looking at the numbers of how many people wound up registering and kind of fit into that college age voting voting range. I think there's a good chance that turnout could be could be strong here, but it's it's up in the air at this point. I would hate to speculate.

Peter Biello:
Well, Maayan Schechter, statehouse reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. Thank you very much for taking some time with us this morning. We really appreciate it.

Maayan Schechter:
Thank you for having me.

Peter Biello:
Listeners, where we're talking about the Democratic primary with a few folks who have been following this closely, closely. South Carolina votes on Saturday, then Tuesday, March 3rd is Super Tuesday. What's on your mind about these candidates and the ideas they espouse? How important is the elusive concept of electability to you? Give us a call. And I want to turn back to James Pindell, political reporter for The Boston Globe, and Chris Kolderie of Saint Anselm College. So going into South Carolina, what will you be looking for? We'll start with you, Chris.

Chris Galdieri:
I'll be looking for whether Joe Biden can finally put a win on the board. And if he does, by what sort of margin? And if he doesn't, then who beat him? You know, if Bernie Sanders win South Carolina, then I think I don't want to say it's over, but it's probably pretty close to over.

Chris Galdieri:
On the other hand, if Biden does well, you know, maybe things change going forward.

Peter Biello:
And how about you, James? What do you think?

James Pindell:
Oh. He's actually competing in South Carolina. I think all week we're going to be watching this again. The calendar is three days is South Carolina, three days before Super Tuesday. If I am a candidate who really needs to raise some money or am nervous about how I'm going to continue if I am but a judge who just never really caught on with people of color, I might be taking my time. Had it cost the South Carolina a couple of more fundraising stops in California and a couple more congressional districts that make my way to Texas, the nickname Heda Arkansas into Alabama and others, these other early other Super Tuesday states before I even made it to South Carolina. But Chris is right. The top line is all that matters here. I mean, does does Biden win? If so, by how much? And if Bernie Sanders somehow pulls off a win. And remember, he has the one he is the one with the momentum. Then there's obviously going to be game over the X Factor, I think, in South Carolina, as it was before. In the most important moment, by the way, that Elizabeth Warren is the one person who a lot of African-Americans have said is really understands their issues lately in terms of anyone on that stage. They're kind of concerned about the role that Biden is playing in this race. So I think she's an X factor. If she's a she catches on, she clearly hurts Bernie Sanders and helps Biden win. But I think the most important thing in the South Carolina week is going to be this debate tomorrow night because it can set the stage for momentum going into Super Tuesday more than even the results in South Carolina.

Peter Biello:
James, you mentioned earlier that that you don't believe that some of Senator Sanders big policies, Medicare for all, free college for for for everyone will ever get through.

Peter Biello:
We got this comment from Linda who says The Bernie Theory is that it will take people fighting for the things that they want in a democratic process to effect real change. So the fact that senators currently don't support things like Medicare for all doesn't mean that they might not come around if people stay actively involved. Does Linda have a point, James?

James Pindell:
She absolutely has a point. This is Bernie Sanders. His point. This is Elizabeth Warren's point, which is if you're even fighting for it, you're even talking about it. You aren't changing the trajectory of American politics. And you're certainly never going to. It's never going to happen. You're absolutely right. Look at where we are on immigration and Donald Trump, because the way he talks about it. But nonetheless, the idea that on day one, this is going to going to happen, were you likely have a Republican Senate in need? Explain how Democrats will even take the Senate and then after that, you're ever going to get 60 votes in the Senate for what right now? I think we got like 14 co-sponsors, Medicare for all. For example, there's a lot what we're talking about a project, Medicare for all. You really are into it over the next course of a couple of decades. We're not talking about it. No, next course is a couple of years.

Peter Biello:
Let's go to the phones and talk to Charlie in Laconia. Charlie, thanks very much for calling. You're on the air.

Caller:
Thank you. Good morning. I have never recovered from 1972. First time I was able to vote. I thought we had a terrible president with Richard Nixon in a fairly good candidate with George McGovern, decorated Army Corps veteran, never painted himself, never called himself a socialist, but was painted as. You're very left leaning candidate. And you saw what happened. He lost every state in the country but won. And I'm scared that that that that could happen with Bernie Sanders.

Peter Biello:
Ok. So does that mean you are not voting for Bernie or you're gonna choose someone else?

Caller:
No, I already voted in the primary for Joe Biden. That's who I'm hoping we'd have is our candidate. I would. I just don't like Donald Trump, but I'm just scared to death that if Sanders gets elected, that's what we're going to be stuck with.

Peter Biello:
Well, Charlie, thanks very much for your call. Chris.

Chris Galdieri:
Well, I think one thing that should give Charlie some hope is the level of political polarization in the country today. I think as we saw in 2016, where lots of Republicans weren't really onboard with Donald Trump, didn't like Donald Trump. And then on Election Day, found themselves voting for Donald Trump. I think an awful lot of Democrats will do the same thing if Bernie Sanders is the nominee. I don't know that that will be enough to get him to 270 electoral votes. But my guess is he would probably do respectably well is so far as you can do that in a presidential election. But I don't think you were looking at the sort of blowout where somebody gets, you know, 38 percent of the vote. I think this floor for a candidate in this environment is probably around 43, 44 percent of the vote. So not on the government side.

James Pindell:
This is right in the thing that also, Charlie, if you could have some solace in that, while I think that this nomination is for Bernie Sanders to lose. It's not like Bernie Sanders is going to absolutely have a majority of delegates on the first ballot in Milwaukee at the Democratic National Convention. In fact, we were where the debate is right now. Is it how close does he need to get to be that 50 percent? To not deny him the nomination? There's actually a very high level conversation occurring among Democrats right now. If he is 45 percent of delegates. Is that good enough? Is it 40? It a clear plurality.

James Pindell:
Is that good enough because you don't want to blow up the party or because on that second ballot, superdelegates get to weigh in. And of course, no one's pledged on any ballot no matter what. Can can take that take take the nomination away from Sanders. It could be a wild next couple of months. But as much as Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner right now for the Democratic nomination, it is not his right now.

Peter Biello:
Well, this is The Txchange on an HP. I'm Peter Biello. Going to take a quick break.

Peter Biello:
When we come back, we'll talk a little bit about election interference. Officials say Russia is attempting once again to influence U.S. elections. How concerned are you about that? Also, how responsible are candidates when their supporters behave badly? This is The Exchange I'm Peter Biello. We'll be right back.

Peter Biello:
This is the exchange on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello and we're talking about the race to become the Democratic presidential candidate who can take on President Trump. I'm here with Chris Galdieri, assistant professor in the Department of Politics at Saint Anselm College, and James Pindell, political reporter for The Boston Globe. We're gonna spend some time in this part of the program talking a little bit about Russian interference and election security. And we want to hear your thoughts on that. If you have any, to what extent are you worried about it?

Peter Biello:
So intelligence officials have concluded that Russia already is actively interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign. This is not news that I think will be terribly surprising if you followed what was happening in 2016. But James Pindell, I want to ask you. So how does this story influence the race at all? Does it help a candidate? Does it hurt a candidate? Does it hurt incumbent President Donald Trump? What do you think?

James Pindell:
Well, let's be clear where we're at. What we know and what we don't know, what we know is that apparently our intelligence official said that Russia is trying again to influence the election, that, A, they like Donald Trump either to win or to be the Republican nominee and that they would like Bernie Sanders to be the nominee.

James Pindell:
That's what they say. I obviously have not heard those intelligence briefings myself. I don't know. But that's what we have. We have not learned is how they acted on any way they try to interfere in these elections. We don't see anything on the ground. Yes. Facebook is a cesspool of fake news and everything else that we haven't seen, really we haven't seen it demonstrated in a coordinated way that Russian bots are specifically, for example, helping Bernie Sanders, we or anyone else. But that's all right. We know that apparently that they are trying, but they could just be discussing it. I don't doubt that they aren't serious about it, but we haven't seen anything on the ground to say who is the New Hampshire primary or something.

Peter Biello:
So when you say on the ground, you mean like they're not, as far as we know yet, hacking into election security systems, changing vote tallies. They're not doing that, but they may be engaged in misinformation. Here's our nation.

James Pindell:
We haven't even seen wide scale disinformation ways They've been trying to do things. They may be planning it. Well, I know what they are doing.

James Pindell:
We just have not seen any evidence laid out in front of us as to how they have been trying to influence the election. All we have right now, all we understand right now in terms of the news coverage of it is that there is definitely an intent to do so.

Peter Biello:
Mm hmm. And Chris, what do you make of the news that Russia is once again actively interfering?

Chris Galdieri:
Well, it's not terribly surprising. We know that they, you know, for instance, engage in lots of misinformation and disinformation campaigning in 2016. So I think you can expect to see, you know, lots more weird stuff on social media. You know, Facebook groups that are designed to sort of inject ideas into the mainstream. And again, these things aren't really so much aimed at changing votes in the voting booth as they're cast so much as affecting people's attitudes towards candidates who are trying to perpetuate narratives about what this candidate will do if they're elected versus what this other candidate will do.

Chris Galdieri:
If that's like getting back to our caller earlier who was worried about guillotines, for instance. I think that's exactly the sort of thing that you might see propagated if you were, for instance, trying to use misinformation against a Sanders nomination and so on. I think in terms of the security of the electoral infrastructure, voting machines, registration lists and that sort of thing, everybody should be very worried because very few of those things in the states are anywhere near as secure as they should be. And because of the way we conduct our elections, you know, you're not dealing with one system that you can protect with one robust defense structure. You're dealing with 51 different structures in the states in Washington, D.C. that allocate varying levels of resources for that sort of thing. Some systems are much easier to get into than others. And yeah, I think, you know, it's really tough to conclude that we are doing enough to protect our elections from the prospect of outside interference.

Peter Biello:
So this is a story that's likely to continue as as the campaigns progressed. One other thing I wanted to talk about, one aspect we haven't really talked about yet is the the nature of a candidate's supporters in their responsibility for their behavior. Most recently, Senator Sanders was. Criticized for allegedly having supporters who were very aggressive. These people are sometimes referred to as Bernie Bros. Where does this argument, Chris, fit into the political discourse? This idea of of candidates and their responsibility for their their supporters behavior?

Chris Galdieri:
Well, I think, you know, one, the things with the modern social media environment we live in is that you're aware of these things in a way that you once you wouldn't have been, you know, 20 years ago. Right. You didn't know what Bush supporters were like. Are Gore supporters were like outside the ones in your immediate social circle? I think, you know, now it's possible for supporters of candidates to interact with each other online, sort of turning into echo chambers, feel like if you're not with us, you're against us, that sort of thing. And in the case of, you know, Bernie Sanders supporters, you're probably going to encounter a lot of triumphalism over the next couple of months if he does, in fact, wind up with the nomination.

Peter Biello:
What does that mean?

Peter Biello:
You mean like we told you so?

Chris Galdieri:
And we did it, we've taken over the party. .We're going to you know, we're going to do, you know, Medicare for all and all the rest of it. And, you know, there's a degree to which that's earned. But I think that can be off putting an alienating towards, you know, supporters of other candidates and that sort of thing. You know, to paraphrase May or beauty judge, if you're if you think of politics in terms of addition. I think that sort of thing makes it harder to expand your coalition and makes people a little less a little reluctant to consider yourself themselves a supporter, if that's what your image of a supporter is.

Peter Biello:
And James, what do you make of this idea, the candidates and their relationship with their supporters, some of whom may not behave above board?

James Pindell:
Look, the other thing that's changed. Chris mentioned we didn't know what you're doing is that this Bush supporters who are very rabid can do a lot more damage. We saw what these Bernie Bros have done to the Culinary Union leaders, for example, many of them female, in how they've attacked him and harassed them. But the Bernie Bro thing is absolutely real. It's there was also real. From the Trump folks. At the same time, you can understand why they feel a little bit aggrieved given how 2016 went down. College is Bernie Sanders is responsible for their activism or lost or negative ways they handled themselves. I mean, I don't know. He has condemned them. There's not much else he can do about it. Part of it's the age we're in and I'm not seen her stirring up our hands. The footage edge was the claim that Sanders and his supporters are no better to the political discourse than Trump folks.

James Pindell:
That's a debate to be had, and certainly he'll try to use that debate for his own political points. But I don't know how much we could really ask of Bernie Sanders. What else you want him to do? He's on the debate stage last night. He flat out just about them that they are not part of his movement or his revolution.

Peter Biello:
We got this note from Margaret in Concord, harkening back to our conversation about Russian election interference. Just a moment ago, Margaret said called in to say, and we just have a note from her that Russia wants to help Bernie Sanders because Trump will beat him hands down. So seeing a little bit of political gamesmanship in what Russia is trying to do, allegedly trying to do. One final topic we should address before the end of the program, and this is the narrative thread that we keep seeing, the persistent belief by some that there is a mainstream both media bias against candidate fill in the blank in a Democratic National Committee, bias in favor of one candidate versus the other. I want to get both of your opinions on this really quickly before we go. Chris, is this a narrative that needs debunking, in your view?

Chris Galdieri:
I think so. I mean, if the Democratic National Committee or the Democratic establishment was trying to line up their support behind one candidate, they've done a terrible job of that.

Chris Galdieri:
I mean, you had at one point or another, I think you had 26 or 27 different people running for the nomination, most of whom had absolutely no shot. You saw a host of very talented politicians with really interesting resumes and backgrounds go absolutely nowhere in the process last year. And all were dropped out by around, you know, January 1st stuff folks like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and, you know, Jay Inslee and so on. And, you know, there there's you know, I'm trying to figure out who the beneficiary of this was, you know, at least in 2016, you could say clearly, you know, mainstream establishment Democrats, party leaders, whatever you want to call them, favorite Clinton over Sanders. And you could deal with point two, you know, six hundred endorsements from superdelegates before a vote had been cast. But in 2020, I mean, the Democratic establishment has just gone fishing or something.

Peter Biello:
And James, what do you think?

James Pindell:
Yeah, I don't I just reiterate that Chris is exactly right. I mean, we are living in age with the last three decades where institutions, whether they are political institutions in terms of parties or whether they're the media at sports figures, you can go churches, businesses, unions, you can go down the line. All these institutions matter less than they have mattered in the past. And in the biggest proof you have to that is. Institutions and parties matter. Donald Trump would never have won the Democratic and the Republican nomination. And Bernie Sanders would not be the front runner right now. Well, you can point to things that you think may be biased or you think they were trying to be rigged. They are clearly not successful.

Peter Biello:
Well, I want to thank you both for being on the program today. It's been really great to hear your insights. I think we have time really quickly for you to give some predictions for the debate. That's coming up. We'll start with you, James.

James Pindell:
Well, look, I think the biggest X factor, again, is can Elizabeth Warren pull off a performance like that again? If so, then she kind of changes the dynamic in South Carolina and going forward at the same time. Can Mike Bloomberg catch his sea legs here and actually pull off an OK performance that can inspire confidence for those who are more moderate and want to stop Sanders? And those are the two main dynamics to watch.

Peter Biello:
and Chris.

Chris Galdieri:
Yeah, I'm gonna be watching to see if anybody manages to attack Bernie Sanders and attack him in a way that sticks. You know, we saw Bloomberg try that with the thing about it. You know, you own three houses in that kind of went over like like a lead balloon. If someone is able to actually do some damage to Sanders, I think that might shake things up a little bit. But if history is any expectation, they'll all go after Mike Bloomberg.

Peter Biello:
That's Chris GGaldieri, assistant professor in the department politics at Saint Anselm College. Also James Pindell, political reporter for The Boston Globe. Thank you both very much for being on the program today. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks also to Maayan Schechter for joining us earlier in the show. She's from the state newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina.