New Hampshire Experiences Crush Of Democratic Presidential Contenders | Connecticut Public Radio
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New Hampshire Experiences Crush Of Democratic Presidential Contenders

May 10, 2019
Originally published on May 10, 2019 7:11 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is never too early for presidential candidates to visit New Hampshire. That is especially true when more than 20 candidates want to make an impression. Two hundred seventy-seven days remain until New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. And New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers reports the intensity is as high as people have ever seen.

JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: A Sunday morning at 8:30, months out from an election, isn't, at least on paper, prime time for any candidate to fill a room...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORY BOOKER: Good morning.

ROGERS: ...Yet this Cory Booker house party in Bedford, N.H., is packed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOOKER: It is so good to be there.

(CHEERING)

BOOKER: So it is Sunday morning, so forgive me if I sound pastorial (ph), but Abraham was said to be favored by God and got the blessing to be the father of many nations 'cause he kept his tent open on all four sides. And people would feel welcome, no matter what direction they came from.

ROGERS: New Hampshire is feeling a little bit like Abraham's tent these days. The flaps are open, and would-be presidents are making themselves at home. According to Neil Levesque, it's never been busier. He directs the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, a frequent stop for candidates.

NEIL LEVESQUE: Right now, we see the activity that we are usually seeing about four weeks out from the presidential primary.

ROGERS: For local politicians who see themselves as kingmakers, it's a busy time.

LOU D'ALLESANDRO: I'll tell you, it's like the Kentucky Derby. And we've got some good runners in it.

ROGERS: But Manchester State Senator Lou D'Allesandro also worries it's going to be a slog vetting the candidates.

D'ALLESANDRO: You've got to tough it out because with the number of people running, if you're really conscientious about getting to know them, you're going to have to stick in there and keep pitching.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETE BUTTIGIEG: All right. Wow. Look at that.

(CHEERING)

ROGERS: Candidates are finding they get a lot of attention. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg was recently at a Concord bookstore the same weekend five other candidates were in New Hampshire.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUTTIGIEG: You get up here - it looks like an awful lot of people in this room.

ROGERS: But large crowds don't mean voters are making up their minds.

KAREN HICKS: The crowds are bigger. The interest is higher. The decision-making is slower.

ROGERS: Democratic strategist Karen Hicks has advised several presidential campaigns in New Hampshire. She says in 2020, the traditional mode of organizing here - winning over core party activists early and leveraging their loyalty to attract others - may not apply.

HICKS: It's sort of a polygamy situation with the candidates and the voters here. I think people will give money and give time to two or three of them.

ROGERS: Voters like Bryan and Kristen Bannister, who are starting to put in time with the candidates, are finding it crowded.

BRYAN BANNISTER: We tried to go see...

KRISTEN BANNISTER: Buttigieg.

B. BANNISTER: ...Buttigieg yesterday...

K. BANNISTER: Friday.

B. BANNISTER: ...And we were closed out. There were too many people there.

ROGERS: I met them near the door at the Cory Booker house party, which was being propped open to accommodate late arrivals.

K. BANNISTER: Well, my hunch is there'll be this frenzy, and then it'll kind of settle down as candidates establish a pecking order.

B. BANNISTER: But seeing this many people getting involved, to me, is a very positive thing, even though it's too many.

ROGERS: The challenge facing Democratic candidates, voters and anyone else with a stake in the primary here will be navigating the crowd. For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Concord. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.