Independent Voters Are New Hampshire Wild Card: Campaign Update

Ryan Teague Beckwith

(Bloomberg) -- As if the Democratic presidential process weren’t complicated enough, the New Hampshire primary will have another wild card: independent voters.

Unaffiliated voters make up 42% of registered voters in the Granite State, a larger bloc than either Democrats or Republicans, and they can participate in either party’s primary by simply requesting a ballot on Tuesday.

With President Donald Trump facing only token opposition on the Republican side, that’s raised perennial fears that conservative-leaning independents might jump in to pick the weakest Democrat. In fact, Republican officials in South Carolina are pushing voters in that state to back Bernie Sanders, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.

But New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said that while there have been accusations of that cross-voting for decades, “it’s never really played out.”

A recent Suffolk University poll showed Sanders and Pete Buttigieg just about tied among 197 independent voters in New Hampshire, with about a quarter of respondents backing them. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar each had about 10%.

Democrats Open Up About Their Personal Lives (2:31 p.m.)

Not every politician likes to talk about their personal stories, but running for president tends to break down that reticence.

Bernie Sanders rarely talked about his Jewish background in his 2016 race. But at a recent CNN town hall he spoke at length about how it “profoundly” affected his world view, and the campaign held a Jews for Bernie kickoff over the weekend complete with a Havdalah ceremony.

Pete Buttigieg has said he “didn’t set out to be the gay president,” but in recent days he and his allies have talked more about how his campaign is breaking down barriers, drawing a parallel with Barack Obama’s successful campaign in 2016.

Joe Biden has talked more openly about his struggle with stuttering, giving an in-depth interview on the subject, talking about it on the campaign trail and giving a heartfelt answer during a CNN town hall. In December, he criticized former White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders for making fun of his speech patterns.

Elizabeth Warren has opened up about the failure of her first marriage and her mother’s disappointment about her divorce, while also making the case that “women win” to rebuff concerns about her electability.

Amy Klobuchar has long been open about her father’s alcoholism, which she now uses to talk about problems like the cost of drug treatment. And Andrew Yang has cited his son’s autism when talking about disability policies, education and health care.

Democrats Share Attack Lines in New Hampshire (12:35 p.m.)

The Democratic presidential contenders don’t always agree, but they have sometimes echoed one another in their lines of attack in the days before the New Hampshire primary. Here’s a quick overview.

Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are hitting Bernie Sanders over the cost of Medicare for All: “He won’t tell you how he’ll pay for it,” Biden said. Buttigieg said the health care proposal has an “‘I don’t know’ price tag.”

Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are hitting Sanders as too ideological: Buttigieg described the Vermont senator’s style as “my way or the highway.” Klobuchar said: “To me, leadership right now is not whether you’re willing to just stand in the corner, throwing a bunch of punches, giving a speech by yourself.”

Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are hitting Buttigieg over donations from billionaires: Sanders noted that Buttigieg has contributions from “more than 40 billionaires.” Warren implied Buttigieg’s proposals “were designed not to offend big-dollar donors.”

Biden and Klobuchar are hitting Buttigieg for inexperience: “I think, you know, being a mayor of a town smaller than Manchester is not quite like being a United States senator from the state of Illinois,” Biden said. “We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us,” Klobuchar said.

Warren Throws Shade at Mike Pence (11:01 a.m.)

Elizabeth Warren used one of her most popular campaign surrogates, her gold retriever Bailey, to take a dig at Vice President Mike Pence.

During a Q&A at an event in Lebanon, New Hampshire, on Sunday, a voter asked: “Do you ever think to yourself: ‘Who is gonna be my Mike Pence?’”

“I already have a dog,” she responded.

The crowd laughed. “Gotta watch these feisty women!” she added.

Bailey, who was at the event, had no comment. -- Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Elisabeth Ponsot

COMING UP

The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday.

Democratic presidential candidates will meet for their next debate on Feb. 19 in Las Vegas.

Nevada holds its caucuses on Feb. 22, and South Carolina has a primary on Feb. 29.

(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

--With assistance from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, Elisabeth Ponsot and Emma Kinery.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Teague Beckwith in Manchester, New Hampshire at rbeckwith3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max Berley, Magan Crane

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