Lauren Chooljian and James Pindell preview the New Hampshire primary

Lauren Chooljian and James Pindell preview the New Hampshire primary


JUDY WOODRUFF: Now back to New Hampshire,
as the clock continues to tick down here to the start of voting in the first-in-the-nation
primary. Over the weekend, I caught up with several
of the candidates during their frantic final sweeps across this state. Minnesota Senator
Amy Klobuchar, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick
were among them, but, first, former Vice President Joe Biden. Here he is taking questions from reporters
about South Bend, Indiana’s former Mayor Pete Buttigieg. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate:
Guess what? He was a mayor. He’s a good guy. But the idea of passing a budget as mayor
of a town the size of Manchester and managing $900 billion with less than 1 percent fraud
or abuse, picking up his city and thousands of cities across the country, is ridiculous. So let’s get straight. What’s the problem?
Where is the thing that’s so bad in the past? JUDY WOODRUFF: Isn’t his point, though, that
that was that moment, that we’re now in a different moment, and this moment requires
different leadership? JOSEPH BIDEN: That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying that the problems we have now
are because of the past. That’s what he’s saying. Let’s get that straight, OK? Period. Number two, the problems we have today are,
we need not different leader. We have to continue the leadership and move it on. I never said
this is going to be a third term of Barack Obama. SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), Presidential Candidate:
For me, this last few days before the primary vote is all about get out the vote, building
that excitement, and getting the people to New Hampshire behind me. And I cannot believe what I am hearing up
on that stage. There are a bunch of independents who Republican — moderate Republicans who
are registered independents that have decided to vote because they can’t stand Trump. There are a bunch of people who were with
other candidates who, after the debate, changed over to me. That’s what we’re seeing in the
polls. And then we have undecideds up the wazoo. And I tell them to look at me as a fresh face
and that, in this race, between the vice president and Mayor Pete, I say that 59 is the new 38,
and that it is good to have someone new, but it’s also good to have someone with experience. JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you your — I mean,
how do you get people to turn out for you? I had — talked to one gentleman who said,
I really like him, but I worry he doesn’t have a chance. ANDREW YANG (D), Presidential Candidate: Well,
the great thing about New Hampshire is that they determine who has a chance and who doesn’t.
They’re very independent-minded here. They’re going to do what they think is best
for the country, and I certainly trust them. But, yes, we’re feeling great about the campaign
here. We also spent a lot of money on TV ads here. JUDY WOODRUFF: You agree, though, that Pete
Buttigieg doesn’t have the experience of some of the other candidates? ANDREW YANG: Well, he certainly doesn’t the
experience of some of the other candidates. The question many voters are asking is, what
is the kind of experience they’re looking for, the judgment, the values, the priorities,
the vision? DEVAL PATRICK (D), Presidential Candidate:
I have been in New Hampshire more than any other candidate, including the candidates
who’ve been in this in this race for months and years. And it is true I have not spent my time making
myself famous over the last couple of years. But I have spent the last 40 years making
a difference. And I think that the kind of — the kind of
primary that’s run here in New Hampshire, the expectations of New Hampshire voters,
that you are intimate, that you spend time with them, that you talk and listen to them,
is a great opportunity to make that case. And, as we make that case here, if we get
the vote we want here, that gives us momentum moving forward. JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s where we will begin
this special New Hampshire edition of Politics Monday. With me here in Manchester, in the studios
of WGBH, our partner station, are James Pindell of The Boston Globe and Lauren Chooljian of
New Hampshire Public Radio. She’s the host of the “Stranglehold” podcast, whose entire
focus is on this presidential primary. Great to have you both with us. Thank you
so much for being here. JAMES PINDELL, The Boston Globe: It’s an honor. LAUREN CHOOLJIAN, New Hampshire Public Radio:
Thanks for having us. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let me just start with
a very basic question, Lauren. How clear are the candidates’ messages coming
across in this state? LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: Well, for reporters who
have been covering them over and over again, it feels like they’re very clear, because
they sound the same every time you get there. (LAUGHTER) LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: But it’s funny. When you talk to voters, they really do get
excited. And they feel like these messages are resonating with them. I cover Pete Buttigieg
the most for us at NHPR. And a lot of people say to me they like his energy. They feel
like they believe what he’s saying, that he’s thoughtful, and they like that he’s a uniter. That is definitely one of his big pitches.
And that’s where he’s kind of like done a couple pokes at Bernie Sanders, who he is,
of course, is neck and neck with the polls. He — there were a couple moments where he
starts to criticize the call for a revolution, and he says that we need to focus on uniting,
not dividing, and now, in a big arena for a state Democratic Party fund-raiser — that
didn’t go over well, of course, with Bernie Sanders supporters, and showed that big divide
in the party right now over a feistier leader that is maybe more liberal. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: But, among his crowds, they
really like what he’s saying. JUDY WOODRUFF: James Pindell, what are you
hearing in messages from the candidates? JAMES PINDELL: Well, it’s a very good question
you asked earlier, which is, are they able to get their messages out? JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. JAMES PINDELL: Because these two weeks every
four years in the presidential race are some of the most exciting and some of the most
dramatic and as raw politics yet. Yet, over on top of all of it these last two
weeks, it’s been really hard in the news environment to get their message out. The first week in
Iowa, I was out in Iowa, and impeachment was throughout the entire week. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. JAMES PINDELL: And we had four senators obviously
running for president also trying to compete. We had the Super Bowl happening. And this week began with a lot of confusion
about process. What exactly did happen in Iowa? Then you had the State of the Union
address the first day of the New Hampshire primary. Wednesday, the president’s acquitted. Now it starts to feel like the New Hampshire
primary. And you are getting some momentum for candidates who — Pete Buttigieg and lately
Amy Klobuchar after that debate. It’s starting to feel like voters are really starting to
tune in and make some decisions. But you’re right, that the news environments
been very difficult for a lot of these candidates to break through. JUDY WOODRUFF: Maybe, Lauren, that condensed
time period, that people have had to truly only focus on the candidates, maybe that explains
some of the hard time voters seem to be having here making a decision. LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: I mean, I think we always
— the myth is that New Hampshire voters are hard to — they have a hard time making up
their mind. And I think the large field hasn’t helped
with that. And, I mean, I have talked to a lot of voters who continue to be undecided.
Even in the polls, like from The Boston Globe, there’s always that percentage of people who
say, I think I know who I’m voting for, but I could change my mind before Election Day,
which seems crazy, I know, because it feels like this election has been going on forever. But, for some people, they just want to keep
seeing candidates. There’s also people who don’t have time to go out and see candidates,
right? I mean, we get a lot of attention for a very
engaged population. But there are also a lot of people here who can’t make these candidate
events. And so they’re just turning the TV on now, which also seems crazy for us. But I think that that is a really unknown
factor in this election. I think Amy Klobuchar is a great example of someone who’s trying
to capitalize on that. JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear so much about how these
— this year especially, Democrats want someone to beat Donald Trump. So, I guess my question, James, is, is that
the overriding concern? I mean, set aside the left wing of the Democratic Party, the
moderate wing of the Democratic Party. JAMES PINDELL: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: What is it that voters are
looking for? JAMES PINDELL: I think that’s exactly right. Poll after poll says it. You hear it every
single time I talk to a voter or I go door to door. I mean, this idea that, typically,
particularly Democratic primaries are this battle between the head and the heart, the
one candidate on one side and then the candidate you know is most electable, that is not a
debate at all. It’s all about the head, who can beat it?
And I think what in part is driving this indecision, it’s not entirely obvious who that person
is. And I think people are waiting for a moment, some clarity, some — maybe it’s on the debate
stage or some comment, where it becomes crystal clear who that person is. And they have get
to see that. JUDY WOODRUFF: And I hear — for example,
you hear Bernie Sanders saying, this is the most important election in our modern time. In fact, this morning, I heard him say, it
may be the most important election ever in America, maybe a slight hyperbole. JAMES PINDELL: Julius Caesar, that election,
this has nothing on this. (LAUGHTER) JUDY WOODRUFF: On the other hand, Joe Biden,
Lauren, saying, well, I could take a hit here, lowering expectations. LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: That was certainly a stunning
moment on the debate stage. And I know some supporters of his were kind of struck by that.
And also people who are on the fence and are trying to see how he does in these last remaining
days were also struck by that. New Hampshire people want to know that the
voters take them seriously. They want to feel important, right? And for someone to just
kind of throw it out early and say, I’m probably going to take a hit here, I think that made
an impression with people. JAMES PINDELL: And one more thing on that,
Judy. As you know, you have been covering so many
New Hampshire primaries. JUDY WOODRUFF: So many. (LAUGHTER) JAMES PINDELL: These voters here love the
story of the comeback. LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: Yes. Yes. JAMES PINDELL: They want someone they can
get behind. They like them if they’re — they know and they’re humble and they go out there
on the hustings. And Joe Biden comes out here and says, I want
a comeback, intellectually, I deserve a comeback, but it’s probably not going to happen, vs.
Amy Klobuchar, who’s hitting every single diner in her running shoes, and she’s talking
people up, wanting to earn the vote, like Bill Clinton, like Hillary Clinton, like John
McCain. Go down the line. The story of the comeback
is there if a candidate actually goes in and tries to do it. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, meantime, Lauren, you have
— you’re headed from this interview across the street… LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: Right across the street. JUDY WOODRUFF: … to none other than a rally
for President Trump, who’s come right into the belly of the beast on the eve of the primary. LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: Yes. Yes, absolutely. JUDY WOODRUFF: How is that playing on as voters
think about this? LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: Well, I mean, of course
he’s here, right? (LAUGHTER) LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: He wants to have a big party
to distract the attention away from this huge Democratic primary. He’s also very popular here among New Hampshire
Republicans. Last week, Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen, was here. The vice president
was also here today. He’s going to do a similar thing, like he did in Iowa, where he brings
in a lot of surrogates, because I think he wants to send a message that he really wants
to do well in New Hampshire in 2020. This was, of course, one of his tightest margins
in 2016. And he’s had his eye on it ever since. He was here in August. And so New Hampshire
is extremely important to him. And there are a lot of people fired up to
support him. I mean, at the last couple events I have been to, there is like a bus or something
happening from Trump supporters outside. So they want to show that it isn’t just about
Democrats here. JUDY WOODRUFF: A couple of Trump buses, yes. JAMES PINDELL: And, technically, Donald Trump
is in the New Hampshire primary tomorrow against Bill Weld. LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: Right. JUDY WOODRUFF: For sure. There is still… JAMES PINDELL: So, he still does have that. And I will say one last thing. He tried this
in Des Moines the week before the Iowa — the week before the Iowa caucuses. The impact
was pretty obvious. The Des Moines Register the next day had a
story about Trump, had a story about Mike Pence at the Drake Diner, and some ag stories,
and not a single story on the front page about a Democratic presidential candidate, which
really may be the play here. JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will see what happens
right here in New Hampshire. We wouldn’t miss it. We — all eyes on the Granite State. James Pindell, Lauren Chooljian, thank you
very much. LAUREN CHOOLJIAN: Thank you. JAMES PINDELL: Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

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