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Political Spotlight Focuses On New Hampshire Primary


Our colleague Scott Detrow is in Manchester, the largest city in New Hampshire, a state he is sharing with many a presidential candidate this morning. Voting is tomorrow in a presidential race that is evolving even though we still do not have the final results from Iowa a week ago. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: This is something probably everybody should try to do once or twice in their life, be in New Hampshire at primary season. What's it like?

DETROW: It's a festival atmosphere. There is media from all over the world at these events. There are big crowds. One funny thing is the amount of political tourists from all over the country here. So I have learned the hard way to ask people where they're from at the beginning of the interview, not the end...

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

DETROW: ...So you don't have this insightful conversation - where are you from? Oh, yeah, I'm from Ohio. It's really fun to be here.

INSKEEP: Or Canada or who knows where?


INSKEEP: Well, how is Joe Biden doing, the man who was until very recently seen as the frontrunner?

DETROW: Yeah. His entire campaign, he was focusing on this general election strategy, ignoring the fact that he was running against other Democrats, and Iowa changed that quickly, that fourth-place finish. On Saturday, his campaign launched an attack ad belittling Pete Buttigieg's experience as the mayor of South Bend, Ind. Biden also criticized Buttigieg for regularly comparing himself to Barack Obama.


JOE BIDEN: Come on, man, you think - these guys - this guy is not a Barack Obama.

DETROW: And Buttigieg had a pretty quick response to that. Here he was on CNN the next day.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: Well, he's right. I'm not, and neither is he.

DETROW: So Buttigieg is saying this is a new moment. There's a need for new leadership. And that really coincides with Buttigieg maybe winning Iowa. Either way, we know he finished in the top two in a very close race and seeing rising poll numbers in New Hampshire and a lot of big crowds.

INSKEEP: Did Biden also target the other guy in that top two in Iowa, Bernie Sanders?

DETROW: He did, saying something that you're hearing from a lot of Democrats - concerns about electability and the fact that Bernie Sanders is a self-avowed democratic socialist. That was a point in the debate. You're hearing more and more of it as Sanders gets stronger. And Biden is arguing that would be a real drag for Democrats in House races, especially those seats that flipped control of the House.

Sanders was asked about this yesterday on Fox News, and he made a point that he often does in this moment. He criticized President Trump in saying that there is socialism going on right now, but it's socialism focused on corporations and subsidies and tax breaks.


BERNIE SANDERS: The difference between my socialism and Trump's socialism is I believe the government should help working families, not billionaires.

DETROW: New Hampshire is a state that Bernie Sanders won by 22 points four years ago. And even though he keeps telling people about that, reminding them of 2016, his campaign is saying, hey, nobody expects a margin like that. This is a close race. Still, they're feeling very confident.

INSKEEP: Where does a somewhat more traditional Democrat, Amy Klobuchar, fit in here?

DETROW: That's a great question. And it's one of the big themes of what's going to happen Tuesday that I'm really curious about. You have seen signs of Klobuchar momentum boost since Iowa, particularly since her debate Friday night, where a lot of people thought she did really well. She's seeing big increases in fundraising and crowd sizes. And she is ticking up in several polls, as well.


AMY KLOBUCHAR: I need your vote because I truly believe this will be a victory for getting away from the extremes and the noise and the nonsense in our politics.

DETROW: So for Klobuchar, I think it's less about maybe winning New Hampshire but more about forcing herself into the conversation of, which is the best candidate for the moderate wing of the party to put forward here? So as for Elizabeth Warren, it feels like she's really kind of getting squeezed out of the conversation as the focus gets to Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg going after each other. She was really absent for large chunks of the conversation in that Friday debate, to her frustration. Warren finished third in Iowa as far as we can tell. It was a little bit ahead of where the polls had her. But still, she got out of that focus on the top candidates. And you have to wonder what another third-place finish would do in New Hampshire next to her home state for the future of her campaign.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks so much, as always.

DETROW: Sure thing.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Detrow is reporting today from Manchester, N.H., where the primary comes tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.