Suc­cess in Iowa fires up But­tigieg cam­paign in NH

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY DAVID CATANESE [email protected]­

Pete But­tigieg faces the im­me­di­ate chal­lenge of cap­i­tal­iz­ing on his strong Iowa show­ing in New Hamp­shire, a state his aides be­lieve will be cru­cial for him to prove he is the most vi­able al­ter­na­tive to Bernie San­ders in the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary.

While But­tigieg’s cam­paign pri­vately ac­knowl­edges that over­tak­ing San­ders in New Hamp­shire will be dif­fi­cult, their aim in Tues­day’s first-inthe-na­tion pri­mary is twofold: track close enough to the pro­gres­sive Ver­mont se­na­tor to demon­strate dura­bil­ity and fin­ish ahead of the mod­er­ate Joe Bi­den to fur­ther un­der­cut his core premise of electabil­ity.

Speak­ing on a call to sup­port­ers Wed­nes­day evening, But­tigieg dubbed him­self the “mo­men­tum can­di­date in this race,” but warned, “We’ve got to re­mem­ber we’re still the un­der­dog in this ef­fort.”

A strong fin­ish for But­tigieg in New Hamp­shire, where the white, col­legee­d­u­cated vot­ers that have backed him make up a sig­nif­i­cant slice of the Demo­cratic elec­torate, is para­mount be­cause the states vot­ing in the fol­low­ing weeks present de­mo­graphic chal­lenges that he hasn’t yet been able to crack.

In Ne­vada, where at least 20 per­cent of the cau­cus elec­torate is ex­pected to be His­panic, and South Carolina, where African-Amer­i­cans make up 60 per­cent of the pri­mary elec­torate, But­tigieg has been con­sis­tently stuck in sin­gle dig­its in the polls. Bi­den and San­ders are cur­rently the top two polling can­di­dates in both states.

Of course, But­tigieg is bet­ting that con­tin­ued suc­cess can change all of that – which means sur­pris­ing again in New Hamp­shire’s pri­mary on Feb. 11.

“I would call New Hamp­shire ur­gent for the But­tigieg team. I think it’s ur­gent be­cause he’s the one com­ing out of Iowa with the most mo­men­tum. Ob­vi­ously there’s lower ex­pec­ta­tions for him in the South and in Ne­vada,” said Sean Downey, who ad­vised Cory Booker’s New Hamp­shire cam­paign. “I just don’t see any­one catch­ing Bernie . ... If I’m them, I’m cer­tainly zon­ing in on a sec­ond­place fin­ish there.”

San­ders has main­tained a con­sis­tent sin­gle-digit polling lead in New Hamp­shire for weeks, but But­tigieg has shown signs of climb­ing into con­tention in the days fol­low­ing the Iowa cau­cuses, the kick-off nom­i­nat­ing con­test that re­mains un­re­solved due a host of re­port­ing and tech­no­log­i­cal sna­fus.

De­spite the con­tro­versy hang­ing over Iowa’s re­sults, the But­tigieg cam­paign be­lieves the former South Bend, Ind. mayor still ben­e­fited from the splash of me­dia cov­er­age that has portrayed him as a vic­tor, if not the of­fi­cial win­ner. On Thurs­day alone, he ap­peared on “The View,” was fea­tured in a sit-down in­ter­view with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle, where she de­scribed him as “the fron­trun­ner,” and taped a seg­ment with Stephen Col­bert.

And there’s data to demon­strate there might be a But­tigieg bump de­vel­op­ing.

A Bos­ton Globe/Suf­folk Univer­sity sur­vey on Thurs­day found But­tigieg pulling into a sta­tis­ti­cal dead heat with San­ders, whose lead was cut to just a sin­gle point, 24 per­cent to 23 per­cent. Bi­den had fallen to fourth place at 11 per­cent. A Mon­mouth Univer­sity poll of New Hamp­shire also taken this week showed But­tigieg within strik­ing dis­tance of San­ders. San­ders lead was just 4 points, 24 per­cent to 20 per­cent. Bi­den lagged in third place at 17 per­cent.

A But­tigieg aide said even fin­ish­ing five to six points be­hind San­ders would amount to a sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ment, given San­ders’ dom­i­nance in the 2016 pri­mary here and long his­tory as a mem­ber of Congress from a neigh­bor­ing state.

But most im­por­tantly, ac­cord­ing to the aide, was beat­ing Bi­den, But­tigieg’s main com­peti­tor for mod­er­ate vot­ers. The former vice pres­i­dent be­gan to take aim at the 38-yearold’s lack of ex­pe­ri­ence on the trail this week.

“I’m count­ing on New Hamp­shire,” Bi­den said. “We’re go­ing to come back.”

But But­tigieg’s cam­paign sees Bi­den’s electabil­ity ad­van­tage be­gin­ning to di­min­ish among vot­ers and even party lead­ers, due to his un­steady cam­paign ap­pear­ances and of­ten ram­bling an­swers to ques­tions on the trail.

“The electabil­ity ques­tion an­swers it­self,” said Rep. An­nie Kuster of New Hamp­shire, who en­dorsed But­tigieg ahead of Iowa de­spite a long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with Bi­den. “You look at the re­sults in Iowa. New Hamp­shire is uniquely sit­u­ated to demon­strate what a broad [But­tigieg] coali­tion will look like next Novem­ber.”

On the Wed­nes­day call with sup­port­ers, But­tigieg deputy cam­paign man­ager Hari Se­vu­gan at­tempted to raise the ur­gency around New Hamp­shire, where the cam­paign was slower to in­vest com­pared to their op­po­nents.

“We may have just won the Iowa cau­cuses, but that is not enough,” Se­vu­gan said. “We need a surge of fi­nan­cial sup­port right now. … We have to get to work over the next six days or we might be out of this thing.”

Even af­ter a year-long na­tional cam­paign, But­tigieg re­mains less known among likely New Hamp­shire pri­mary vot­ers than San­ders, Bi­den and El­iz­a­beth War­ren by al­most 20 per­cent­age points, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­nal But­tigieg cam­paign data.

Af­ter al­lo­cat­ing fewer re­sources to New Hamp­shire ad­ver­tis­ing com­pared to San­ders, the But­tigieg cam­paign ex­pects to be out­spend­ing their ri­val on tele­vi­sion in the Bos­ton me­dia mar­ket by the end of the week. It’s a play to reach the trove of col­lege-ed­u­cated vot­ers in south­ern New Hamp­shire’s Bos­ton sub­urbs, in­clud­ing a swath of in­de­pen­dents and Repub­li­cans who may be turned off by San­ders’ so­cial­ist views and choose to par­tic­i­pate in the pri­mary. A more ag­gres­sive dig­i­tal ad cam­paign will also seek to match San­ders.

Still, this is es­sen­tially a home game for San­ders, who boasts 150 staff and 14,000 vol­un­teers in the state. And al­most ev­ery Demo­cratic oper­a­tive in­ter­viewed said they’d be sur­prised if he didn’t notch a re­peat vic­tory here, al­beit by a much smaller mar­gin than 2016.

“I know New Hamp­shire, more than any other early state … knows him,” said Jane San­ders, as she in­tro­duced her hus­band at an event in Derry. “And that I think’s a huge ad­van­tage for us.”

San­ders’ al­lies are op­ti­mistic about their can­di­date’s stand­ing in the state, but are still cau­tious at set­ting ex­pec­ta­tions.

Renny Cush­ing, a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive and cam­paign co-chair from Hamp­ton who has known San­ders since he was the mayor of Burling­ton, said San­ders’ strength isn’t his fa­mil­iar­ity, but his con­sis­tency on ad­vo­cat­ing for work­ing peo­ple over decades.

“I’ve had a sense in re­cent weeks of a lot of peo­ple com­ing home to Bernie,” Cush­ing said. “They look around and they come back and say ya know, ‘Bernie’s been there.’ ”


Pete But­tigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., greets peo­ple dur­ing a cam­paign stop at the Mer­ri­mack Amer­i­can Le­gion in Mer­ri­mack, N.H. on Thurs­day.

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