Candidates make last-ditch pitches as crucial New Hampshire vote nears

Allan Smith

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The Democratic presidential candidates were crisscrossing New Hampshire on Monday, making last-ditch pitches to voters one day before its critical first-in-the-nation primary and as President Donald Trump visited the Granite State to rally thousands from within eyeshot of the leading Democrats.

The Democrats held their biggest events of the race here Monday night — in some cases, their final calls for local voters to rally to their sides. The events were taking place as the Iowa caucus totals, which had both former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., claiming victory, were being contested.

Entering primary day here, Sanders held a lead of more than 7 points over Buttigieg in the RealClearPolitics average of several polls. Following them was a more distant battle for third place among a surging Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

"I think we're going to have a great night," Buttigieg said Monday when NBC's Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of "TODAY," asked whether he was ready to predict a win. "Look, we are competing against home region competition, two New England senators, I recognize that, but I still think we're going to have a great night."

As the Democrats campaigned across the state, Trump fired his opening salvo ahead of a rally in Manchester later in the evening, where a long line of supporters waited for hours for the gates to open.

"Will be in Manchester, New Hampshire, tonight for a big Rally," Trump tweeted. "Want to shake up the Dems a little bit — they have a really boring deal going on."

At the rally, he said "nobody knows" who won Iowa and claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was "mumbling" behind him, "distracting" him during his State of the Union address last week. The crowd began chanting "lock her up" in response.

The president's presence in the state ahead of the vote drew attention from the Democratic candidates, who in turn focused many of their last-minute attacks on the president.

"Folks, you know, you might have heard Trump is coming to New Hampshire today," Biden told an audience in Gilford. "I can hardly wait. You know, in Iowa before the caucuses, he sent a plane full of surrogates, I think they said 60 or 80, I can't remember how much. This time, he's coming in person. He's coming in person. You know, that's how interested he is in the Democratic primary, I guess. He's had an overwhelming interest in the Democratic primary."

Biden pointed to Trump's economic argument, saying that the economy is "beginning to slow" and that the president "is rapidly, rapidly, rapidly squandering the opportunity he had ... given to him by our administration" because of his "reckless and irresponsible policies."

Speaking to supporters in Rindge, Sanders said Tuesday marks what "could begin the end of Donald Trump."

"If we win here in New Hampshire after winning in Iowa, I think we've got a great chance to win in Nevada, and I think we have a strong shot in South Carolina and California and the states that follow," Sanders said. "So if we win here tomorrow, I think we've got a path to victory for the Democratic nomination."

Sanders later spoke before more than 7,000 people in Durham, his campaign said. Sanders said there were "three times more people here tonight than in any other Democratic rally in New Hampshire."

"We are going to win this election because we have an unprecedented, multigenerational, multiracial grassroots movement of millions of people," Sanders said. "The reason that we won the popular vote in Iowa by 6,000 votes is because we had thousands of volunteers knocking on doors, and the reason we are going to win here in New Hampshire is because we have thousands of volunteers knocking on doors, making phone calls."

Some of Sanders' Democratic rivals have taken to criticizing his platform of "democratic socialism" in the days ahead of New Hampshire's vote, although the contenders have been much sharper in their criticism of Buttigieg, whether it be for accepting donations from billionaires or for his relative inexperience compared to the field.

Buttigieg has pushed back, saying his lack of Washington experience is a strength while exhorting Democrats to be welcoming to all, including the ultra-wealthy, because they will be needed to defeat Trump in the fall.

In Plymouth, he took aim at Sanders, saying that he would not unify the country and that "a picture where your only choices are between a revolution or the status quo is a picture where most of us don't see ourselves."

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At a campaign event in Nashua, Klobuchar pointed to her "surging" in the polls since Friday's nearby debate, saying she believes "a lot of this has to do with this simple idea that I know you share and that is that America is a country Tocqueville once said that may not be the most enlightened nation, but America is a country that always finds a way to repair its faults and to make itself better."

The observation is from "Democracy in America," a survey of the American political system during the first half of the 19th century by the French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville.

Klobuchar's surge has coincided with dips in the polls for Biden and Warren. Nationally, a new poll showed that Biden's dip is taking effect outside Iowa, where he finished an underwhelming fourth behind Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren, and in New Hampshire, where he looks to be duking it out in a battle for third.

The Quinnipiac University survey showed Sanders leading the field, at 25 percent, with Biden, Warren and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who is bypassing the early states — locked in a tight battle for second.

At an event in Manchester, Biden asked voters to "stick with me 24 more hours and I promise you we're going to do just fine heading south and across this country."

"We knew this was going to be a difficult race, because our politics has gotten so coarse and so mean and so unlike any of us were raised, and so I appreciate your patience," he said. "Look folks, 24 hours left. ... I just need to give you one more day."

At the same event, Biden's wife, Jill Biden, was among the first people to approach a heckler to try to push him back away from a rope line.

In Rochester, Warren dismissed the idea that she would be written off. "I've been counted down and out for much of my life," she said.

Asked whether sexism played a role in how her Iowa finish was interpreted, Warren told reporters: "You can't pull the pieces apart.

"I am who I am," she added. "And I don't know what the effects are, but what I do know is that I just have to keep fighting. That's what it's all about. I cannot say to all those little girls: 'This got hard.'"

As the big vote nears, Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., a top Buttigieg backer, told MSNBC that she's never seen so many voters undecided this close to ballots' being cast.

"My first presidential, I was 16 years old," she said, adding that she was a delegate for 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and worked on former President Barack Obama's campaign. "I have never seen the undecideds this high this late in the game."