MANCHESTER/DIXVILLE NOTCH (REUTERS) - Democratic US presidential hopeful Joe Biden told reporters in New Hampshire on Tuesday (Feb 11) he was headed to South Carolina later in the day - before the results of the nominating primary vote under way are even released.
His rivals continued to barnstorm schools, churches and doughnut shops in their last chance to persuade the state’s voters that they were the party’s best bet to take on President Donald Trump in the Nov 3 election.
Recent state polls showed US Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive from neighboring Vermont, leading the crowded field, followed by two moderates: former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and US Senator Amy Klobuchar.
New Hampshire is the second contest of the US presidential party nominating cycle. While few votes are on offer, it gives candidates a chance to build momentum for their campaigns.
Here are some scenes from the campaign trail on Tuesday:
BIDEN MOVING ON
Biden, who finished a disappointing fourth in last week’s Iowa caucus and is trailing in polls in New Hampshire, is moving on to what he hopes are more welcoming states. While visiting a Manchester donut shop, he told reporters that he will head to South Carolina later in the day.
The abrupt move suggests Biden views his fortunes in New Hampshire poorly. His campaign was banking on strong support from black voters – who remember him fondly for his role in Barack Obama’s historic presidency – in that state, which votes Feb 29.
“We’re still mildly hopeful here,” Biden said. But he dismissed the idea that South Carolina has become a do-or-die state for his candidacy.
That meant he would be addressing his New Hampshire supporters – and the volunteers who made up his campaign organisation – by video link rather than in person.
“The rest of the nation is out there,” Biden said. “There’s an awful lot of electoral votes to be had, and we’re going to see.”
After his event in South Carolina, Biden will head west later in the week to campaign in Nevada, which holds the next nominating contest on Feb 22.
DOORS, DOUGHNUTS AND DOGS
Thousands of volunteers for various campaigns fanned out across the state over the past few days to urge voters to come out.
The Sanders campaign said that volunteers knocked on 250,000 doors on Saturday and Sunday, while US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts’ hit 163,000 from Saturday through Monday. Nearly 250,000 people cast ballots in the state’s 2016 Democratic primary, which Sanders won in his unsuccessful fight for the party’s nomination against Hillary Clinton.
Party officials have said they do not expect turnout on Tuesday to match the record set in 2008, the year of Obama’s first presidential campaign.
Warren started her day by visiting a polling location in Portsmouth, where she met a group of supporters passionate enough that they remembered her history as architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“CFPB Warren has a plan for me!” the crowd chanted, as well as, “It’s time, it’s time, it’s time for a woman in the White House!” Warren handed out doughnuts to volunteers and took photos with voters, along with her husband Bruce Mann and dog Bailey.
One supporter showed up with a dress the same “liberty green” colour that Warren has used on her campaign signage. When asked by reporters to name a difference between herself and rival Sanders, a fellow progressive, Warren said: “Overall, I believe that we ought to try to get as much good to as many people as quickly as we can.”
‘THE ONE WHO CAN BEAT TRUMP’
Buttigieg’s supporters greeted him at a Manchester school before dawn, waving blue and yellow “Pete 2020” campaign signs and chanting “President Pete.” The 38-year-old military veteran shook hands and took selfies with the enthusiastic crowd. Less than five minutes later, he headed back to an SUV, a walk slowed by the throng of media cameras surrounding him.
“It feels good out here,” he said, smiling as reporters asked how he thought he would fare in Tuesday’s primary.
Sara Lutat, 60, emerged from the school soon after, having voted for Buttigieg.
“I think he’s the one who can beat Trump,” she said, adding that he was grounded and had progressive ideas but nothing “too far out there.
“Actually, I don’t care who wins as long as he’s not in the White House,” Lutat said, referring to Trump. “I wish the Democratic Party would get it together. Otherwise, we’re going to be stuck in limbo another four years. Frankly, it’s too scary.”
Rebecca Balzano, a 38-year-old cook at a local restaurant, called Buttigieg “too new, too young” and said she voted for Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.
“Everything he says, I’m all for,” she said. “We need the Bern man in office.”
Democratic voters in the state are faced with a lengthy ballot listing 33 names – including top-tier candidates, former hopefuls who have already dropped out of the race and some contenders who never attained a national profile.
One name not on the list is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a late entrant to the race who is skipping the first four contests.
That did not stop voters in the mountain hamlet of Dixville Notch from picking the billionaire founder of the media company that bears his name as a write-in candidate when they voted just after midnight on Tuesday. He won three of the five ballots cast.
Les Otten, a registered Republican who is redeveloping the ski lodge where the vote took place, said he voted for Bloomberg because he is a moderate and his agenda addresses climate change and the ballooning federal budget deficit.
“I did what I had to do,” Otten said.