Buttigieg Boasts Big Crowds In Final N.H. Dash, But Undecided Voters Still Loom | New Hampshire Public Radio

Buttigieg Boasts Big Crowds In Final N.H. Dash, But Undecided Voters Still Loom

Feb 9, 2020

 

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke to a full house at the Elm Street Middle School in Nashua Sunday.
Credit NHPR/Lauren Chooljian

Pete Buttigieg's campaign spent the last weekend before the New Hampshire primary highlighting big crowds and rising poll numbers. But that boost in attention doesn't guarantee smooth sailing from here for the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.

A crowd at a political rally, of course, can’t tell you everything. It can’t tell you for sure which candidate is going to win on Tuesday, and it can hint at a sense of potential successes or problems on Primary Day.

Take one of the biggest crowds Buttigieg spoke to this weekend: Thousands of Democrats showed up Saturday night for the McIntyre-Shaheen Dinner, a state Democratic party fundraiser at the SNHU arena. Buttigieg got an enthusiastic greeting from the fans in his corner, but the moment his stump speech turned toward Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Sanders fans in the audience booed Buttigieg.

"With a president this divisive, we cannot risk dividing Americans further, saying that you must either be for a revolution or you must be for the status quo," Buttigieg said. It was the word "revolution" that kicked off the booing in the Sanders crowd. 

This moment displayed so clearly one of the biggest obstacles for Buttigieg here in New Hampshire in the primary campaign's final hours. There are many Democrats who want a feistier, more experienced leader, one who supports more liberal policies like Medicare for All.

But there are also many voters looking for a moderate option. Buttigieg drew thousands of people to his events on Sunday; his rally at a Nashua middle school was the biggest by far of his entire campaign here. 

Now, many of the people who showed up were from Massachusetts, or even as far as New York and Pennsylvania. But Dorothy Heniric, a Buttigieg supporter from Orange, N.H, said the bigger the crowd, the more electable Buttigieg will look to undecided voters watching on television at home.

"A lot of New Hampshirites are waiting until this weekend to make up their minds, and a good showing here can influence some voters, so that’s why I’m here," Heniric said. "You don't want to waste a vote."

In an interview with NHPR after a rally in Lebanon Saturday, Buttigieg said he'd "let the pundits set the goal posts" for what a victory will look like in New Hampshire. But he said it's important for him to have a strong showing because of the state's "independent streak," and that he's looking to South Carolina and Nevada "to demonstrate that we can show more diverse support."

In order to do so, he’ll eventually have to persuade some of the skeptics - like those who booed him on Saturday in Manchester.