As Warren Makes Her Case, Many N.H. Voters Just Sizing Up Their Options

Apr 14, 2019

Richard Lobban was among the roughly 50 people who packed inside the Rockingham County Democrats Regional Office in Londonderry to hear Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren make her presidential campaign pitch Saturday night.

Lobban said he was — like a lot of his fellow New Hampshire Democrats — still very much untethered to any of the 18 declared candidates in the race for the 2020 presidential nomination.

“My mind is open,” said Lobban, who lives in Bridgewater. “The one who I don’t necessarily agree with, but has the best chance to defeat Trump, is the one I’ll be voting for.”

Among other undecided voters who gathered in Londonderry Saturday night, that criteria — the ability to unseat President Trump — seemed to be the forefront.

“I want somebody to step up and take him on, and put him in his place,” said Fred Walsh, of Londonderry, as he sat a few feet away from Warren’s photo line as the event was winding down.

Walsh and his wife, Chris, said they supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, and this time around they’re still making up their mind. Fred Walsh said he’s liked what he’s heard from Warren, but Saturday’s event didn’t do much to move him for or against her; Chris Walsh said she’s “always liked [Warren]” because “she’s so smart.”

“We just need somebody who’s smart who can get things done, who has a brain,” she said.

Warren spent about an hour making her case directly to the crowd at the field office. About half of that time was taken up by a stump speech in which she spelled out the three overarching goals of her campaign: “attack the corruption head on,” “rewrite the rules in this economy,” and “protect our democracy.”

After her speech, Warren responded to several questioners asking how she would approach “moral leadership” and gun policy, regulating environmental contaminants like PFAS and immigration.

The final question of the night came from a woman who expressed concern that “women’s reproductive rights are being undermined” and wanted to know how Warren would “fight that fight.”

In response, Warren spoke less directly to any specific battles she’d wage on women’s reproductive health, but instead emphasized her record of taking on difficult political fights, starting with her first run for office, against then-Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

When she jumped into the race against Brown, Warren told the group in Londonderry, she wasn’t just up against a popular Republican incumbent with a deep fundraising network. She also faced concerns that her state might not be ready to send a woman to the U.S. Senate.

“People said to me in 2011, in Massachusetts, 'Massachusetts is not gonna elect a woman to the senate seat or the governor’s office. Maybe someday, but not now,' " Warren told her audience. "Now, you can imagine how I heard that: I’m doing this.”

Warren said she continued to face gendered assumptions when she entered the race.

“I started out where everybody commented on what I was wearing, what I looked like,” Warren recalled, before turning to address the room, laughing: “Anybody want to do anything about my hair while we’re here?”

But, she said, she stuck it out, “and I beat that guy by seven and a half points.”

Some voters — including Lobban — say “the fact that she’s a woman” is one of the things that makes Warren stand out in a crowded field in the 2020 Democratic primary.

“[I'm] a total active feminist, as much as I possibly can be, because half the problem that women have is men,” Lobban said. “And so I think I’m slightly prejudiced in favor of a woman candidate.”