Democrats make final pitch at rowdy NH political spectacle

Democrats make final pitch at rowdy NH political spectacle
© Getty Images

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Thousands of rowdy New Hampshire Democrats rocked the 12,000-person SNHU Arena in downtown Manchester on Saturday night, marking the largest and loudest gathering to see Democratic White House hopefuls as they made their final pitch to voters ahead of the state’s primary election.

The candidates stressed unity and the urgent need to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE in short speeches given one after another.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLongtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigeig, the leaders in New Hampshire, and a half-dozen of their rivals electrified voters at the McIntyre-Shaheen Hundred Club Event. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Their supporters clashed, erupting with rival chants as the candidates struggled to speak over the din to get through their stump speeches.

“I know there are differences in opinion in the room, I see that, I detect that,” Sanders said. 

“But despite the differences of opinion in the candidates we are supporting…no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, we’ll come together to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country.”

The annual dinner had the feel of a stadium concert or a top flight sporting event, attracting the likes of actor Michael J. Fox, the founders of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and the Irish ambassador. 

Supporters of the different candidates were seated in rival sections looking down at the fenced-off arena where the candidates took the stage and campaign aides and state party leaders sat for dinner. 

Voters wore color-coded shirts and hats to show their allegiances. Hype music blasted through the arena speakers. Vendors sold drinks and nachos as spectators feasted their eyes on the stage as if it were fight night in Las Vegas.

ADVERTISEMENT

The party gathering comes at a time of deep uncertainty among Granite State voters and national Democrats.

The Iowa caucuses effectively ended in a tie between Sanders and Buttigieg. New Hampshire voters — most of whom are independents — are known to break late. There is heavy pressure to pick the candidate with the best shot at defeating President Donald Trump, and anxiety looms as voters express concern about arriving at a nominee that will lose to the incumbent in the general election.

However, the candidates, aware of voters’ apprehension, sought to quell anxiety and make the case for their electability. 

Buttigieg, the 38-year-old surprise candidate of 2020, spoke first and made the case for generational change. He also leaned into the idea that Democrats should nominate a candidate from the Midwest, saying his experience as a Midwest mayor gives him a connection to ordinary Americans.

“We’re tired of being reduced to a punchline in Washington politics and are ready for someone to take our voice to the Washington capitol,” Buttigieg said. “That’s how we’re going to defeat Donald Trump.”

Sanders’s supporters attempted to interrupt Buttigieg with chants of “Wall Street Pete,” while Buttigieg’s yellow-shirted supporters countered with chants of “Boot-Edge-Edge.” 

Biden’s supporters were largely quiet during the address. 

Biden and Buttigieg have been locked in a fierce battle over electability and are both running to be the party’s centrist standard-bearer.

The former vice president had a fairly tame section of supporters and scattered empty seats. Biden had a lackluster performance in the Iowa Caucuses, finishing in fourth place. He has also sought to tamp down expectations about where he’ll finish in New Hampshire.

But despite these challenges, the former vice president received a standing ovation with a fiery speech, urging all Democrats to get out to the ballot box and run Trump out of the White House.

“Let’s do it now, now, now!,” Biden said, before walking off stage.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenTrump says government to review 5M Kodak loan deal Michelle Obama supporters urge Biden to pick former first lady as running mate On The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again MORE (D-Mass.) might have had the largest group of supporters. The Massachusetts Democrat leaned heavily into the idea that the party should nominate a woman to defeat Trump.

“The way I see it, they’ll keep saying that [a woman can’t win] right up until the point we get in the fight, we persist, and we win,” Warren said.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharLobbying world Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman House committee requests hearing with postmaster general amid mail-in voting concerns MORE (D-Minn.) also gave a lively speech, drawing on themes of unity and grit. At times she appeared to become emotional discussing her presidential run. 

“We’ve beaten the odds every step of the way,” Klobuchar said.

The Minnesota senator was widely viewed as one of the winners of Friday’s debate. She raised $2 million in the hours after the debate and could be in line for a late surge to Election Day.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Top Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden Andrew Yang endorses Biden in 2020 race MORE, who has trailed in the polls since entering the race in November, brought in 800 supporters, according to his campaign.

Businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangIs this the end of the 'college experience'? Biden campaign to take over 'Supernatural' star's Instagram for interview Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology MORE’s supporters gathered in the stadium’s upper level wearing trademark “Math” swag. Sanders’s supporters greeted Yang’s speech with big cheers.

ADVERTISEMENT

Businessman Steyer pushed Democratic unity, saying all of the party’s candidates running were better than President Trump. 

“We’re going to have to kick his ass on the economy,” Steyer told the crowd. 

Outside the arena, hyped groups of protesters and supporters lined the street in the 18-degree cold. 

Supporters of President Trump could be seen carrying campaign signs, waving flags and chanting, “Four more years! Four more years!”

One woman walked past a large sign for Elizabeth Warren, put her hand over her mouth and made the stereotypical gesture meant to insult Native Americans.