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2020 Democrats Make Their Case In New Hampshire

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In New Hampshire today, 19 Democratic candidates made their case to the state's early primary voters at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's primary convention. Here's Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNIE SANDERS: No matter who ends up winning that nomination - and, needless to say, I hope it is us...

(CHEERING)

SANDERS: We will all come together to defeat the most dangerous president in modern American history.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: NPR's Asma Khalid was there, and she is with us now.

Hi, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So, as we mentioned, there are a lot of candidates in the running, and the attendees heard from most of them today. How did people do sitting through all those stump speeches today?

KHALID: (Laughter) Well, Michel, I will say that there is no comparison to what we saw in 2016, when a lot of Democrats here felt like there were not enough choices. People felt like it seemed kind of inevitable that Hillary Clinton would be the nominee. Now they are excited, and they tell me that they would often, you know, be happy with any one of these Democrats. It would be better than having Donald Trump as president. The chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party said that they sold 9,000 tickets for today, and that is larger than any convention that they've ever had.

MARTIN: So for candidates who are from states nearby New Hampshire, you know, New Hampshire is really considered a must-win. And this election cycle, you've got two candidates from neighboring states - Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, and we just heard, and Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. Did you get a sense that either of them has an advantage there?

KHALID: Yeah. Well, you know, if crowd enthusiasm is any metric, then Elizabeth Warren was the clear leader. When she took the stage, before she could even begin talking, there was sustained applause for about two minutes straight. You know, her supporters were really enthusiastic. And many of her standard lines got huge applause from the crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ELIZABETH WARREN: I get it. I get it. There is a lot at stake. And people are scared. But we can't choose a candidate we don't believe in because we're scared.

KHALID: That was not necessarily an unusual line, but it took on some added significance given Joe Biden's popularity in so many of the polls that we've seen to date. And, you know, her applause and her sort of support from the crowd was really unparalleled today.

MARTIN: Well, OK. Well, speaking of Biden, then, he is often talked about as another frontrunner. How did he do among the New Hampshire crowd?

KHALID: You know, he was the first candidate to speak this morning. And so you could say maybe the arena was not yet full of everyone who was going to be here today. He certainly received a lot of applause from the crowd, but it wasn't as passionate is what we saw from some of the other candidates. You know, the central message that we've been hearing from him throughout this campaign is a desire to make sure that Trump is a one-term president. And he, you know, spoke about that. But he also highlighted some economic messages that we've been hearing from some of the other candidates.

MARTIN: So, Asma, you've been to a bunch of these so-called cattle calls where all the candidates take the stage and make their pitch to voters. Was there a candidate today who said something interesting or that really caught your attention?

KHALID: Well, I would say both South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg and New Jersey senator Cory Booker seemed to be really warmly welcomed by the crowd. Buttigieg has been hiring more staff in some of the early voting states with kind of the flush cash that he's been bringing in, and so potentially, that's, you know, part of the reason why we saw some more enthusiasm for him today - is just the fact that he has more supporters and sort of more of a grassroots operation now.

But Cory Booker is someone who I consistently say, you know, might surprise us. He's been really well-received by voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire. And he's been pushing people to reconsider this idea of electability. There's a line that he says often that he delivered today that had got huge applause from the crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORY BOOKER: We can't make the mistake that says, oh, we've got to play it safe. This election is just about finding somebody who can beat Donald Trump. Let me tell you right now, we've got to beat Donald Trump. But beating Donald Trump is the floor. It is not the ceiling.

(CHEERING)

BOOKER: Beating Donald Trump gets us out of the valley, but it does not get us to the mountaintop.

KHALID: And Michel, you know, the thing that I've not fully understood is that people seem to be responding really positively to Booker's message. He's kind of this motivational speaker. But if the polls are accurate - which, you know, we can always say if (laughter) - it does seem that that doesn't necessarily yet mean that voters are saying, yeah, I want to vote for this guy as president over everyone else in the field.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Asma Khalid in New Hampshire. She's been reporting on the New Hampshire Democratic Party's primary convention. You can hear them breaking the convention down all around her.

Asma, thanks so much for joining us.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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