Democrats see convention as chance to underscore COVID-19 message
New Hampshire feels overlooked in Democratic presidential race
BEDFORD, N.H. - New Hampshire is feeling underappreciated in the 2020 presidential cycle, partly because many of the biggest names are coming to the Granite State less frequently.
Former Vice President Joe Biden made just 13 campaign appearances in the state between January and July 2019, while President Trump held no campaign events in New Hampshire in that time frame - even though it is one of a handful of states he lost in 2016 where he might have a path to victory in 2020. Trump did make a campaign stop in the state in August.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is from the neighboring state of Vermont, but he has held only 17 campaign stops in New Hampshire in the first seven months of the year - a number that tracks with the visits he made to the state at the same time in the 2016 cycle. Sanders is one of the favorites to win the New Hampshire primary after his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton there.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is trailing Biden and Sanders in polls, held only 14 campaign events in New Hampshire from January through July, according to NBC Boston.
Overall, an analysis by The Hill shows that this cycle's presidential candidates are actually visiting New Hampshire more frequently than 2016's field of candidates.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), who is from the neighboring state of Massachusetts, held 34 campaign stops between January and July 2019, according to the NBC Boston candidate tracker.
Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) held 79 campaign events in the same time frame, the most of any 2016 or 2020 candidate.
Former presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also held more campaign stops than any 2016 presidential candidate, with 53 campaign stops before the end of July. She dropped out of the race at the end of August.
But overall, New Hampshire is feeling neglected.
"Even though there are dozens and dozens of candidate visits, they're not as visible as they used to be," said Andrew Cline, the president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.
In an interview with The Hill, Cline, who follows New Hampshire politics closely, said the sense the state is being overlooked by candidates is widely shared.
"It definitely feels like there isn't much going on in New Hampshire week to week," he said.
New Hampshire people can sound a bit miffed about the whole thing.
"Yes, it's annoying," Cline said about the feeling of an overshadowed first-in-the-nation primary.
The sentiment has been felt in the state throughout the summer.
For example, the famed Amherst, N.H., Fourth of July parade usually serves as a hotbed for presidential hopefuls, but none of the top-tier candidates showed up this year.
Most of the top-tier no-shows had supporters marching in their absence, but they were met with lukewarm enthusiasm compared to the low-polling candidates, such as Delaney and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who marched in the hot sun and shook hands with dozens of locals.
Warren, who lives just 50 miles from the Amherst parade, did not participate in any New Hampshire campaign stops over that holiday. Instead, she campaigned in Nevada and Texas.
Sanders, the other next-door candidate, campaigned in Iowa that weekend and did not make a single trip to New Hampshire during the month of July.
The two dozen Democratic candidates averaged 23.9 campaign stops in the first seven months of the year, compared to 14.5 visits by the smaller 2016 Democratic field.
Democratic candidates have also generally spent the same number of days in the state, averaging a little more than nine days in the first half of 2019 and seven days in 2015.
University of New Hampshire Survey Center Director Andrew Smith attributed top-tier candidates' lack of a presence in New Hampshire to the Democratic National Committee's debate requirement structure that requires candidates to run more of a national campaign.
"You do have to spend more time in other parts of the country to get the media attention in order [for] your next poll numbers to go up," Smith told The Hill. Candidates also need to raise money, and Smith noted that "you're not going to find it in Iowa and New Hampshire."
"Guys like Delaney have been here forever," said Smith, adding that there are "always candidates in the state if you want to go see them, but I think ... the top candidates are spreading themselves out a little bit more."
Harris's campaign has privately acknowledged her lack of a presence.
Harris's team accidentally left behind an internal memo at a New Hampshire restaurant, obtained by Politico in early September, acknowledging her "summer slump" in the state.
The memo listed talking points to respond to criticism from N.H. voters about her lack of appearances. The talking points included "NH absolutely a priority for my campaign - excited to be back for the [2019 NH Democratic Party State Convention] and other events around the state" and noted recent polling.