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Who Can Beat Trump? After Iowa Caucus Debacle, Stakes Increase for New Hampshire Primary

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As voters head to the polls in New Hampshire for the nation’s first presidential primary, we speak with Arnie Arnesen, a longtime radio and TV host in New Hampshire and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, polls have opened in New Hampshire for the first primary of the election season. The vote comes eight days after the still-disputed Iowa caucus, where both Senator Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg claimed victory. Both candidates have asked for a partial recanvass of the results. On Monday night, Sanders of Vermont held a massive rally and concert at the University of New Hampshire in Durham attended by over 7,000 people.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: This turnout tells me why we’re going to win here in New Hampshire, why we’re going to win the Democratic nomination and why we are going to defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of America, Donald Trump. … And the reason that we are going to win is the American people, no matter what their political views may be, are sick and tired of a president who is a pathological liar, who is running a corrupt administration, who is a bully and a vindictive person, who is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a homophobe and a religious bigot. And those are his nice qualities.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump also held a major rally in Manchester at Southern New Hampshire University Monday. The crowd was estimated around 11,000 people. Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota campaigned in Nashua. In recent days, she has picked up the endorsements of three significant newspapers in New Hampshire.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: If you are struggling to pay for that child care for your kids and choose between that and the long-term care for your parents, I know you, and I will fight for you. And if you are struggling to decide between filling your refrigerator and filling that prescription drug, I know you, and I will fight for you. That is that sacred trust in this country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Senator Elizabeth Warren campaigned in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Monday.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Our democracy hangs in the balance. So, it comes to you, New Hampshire, to decide. When there’s this much fear, when there’s this much on the line, do we crouch down, do we cower, do we back up? Or do we fight back? Me, I’m fighting back. I’m fighting back!

AMY GOODMAN: To talk about today’s primary in New Hampshire, we’re joined by three guests. Arnie Arnesen is with us, longtime radio and TV host in New Hampshire. She’s the host of The Attitude on WNHN-FM in Concord, New Hampshire, former New Hampshire legislator, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the 1992 elections, in Manchester, New Hampshire right now, as is Norm Solomon, co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org, which is supporting Bernie Sanders. And here in New York, the artist, writer and activist Molly Crabapple, who recently published a series of sketches from her time on the campaign trail with Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Arnie Arnesen, let’s begin with you. You were our first guest, 24 years ago, right leading up to the New Hampshire primary.

ARNIE ARNESEN: Shh, don’t tell them, Amy. Don’t tell them.

AMY GOODMAN: Right leading up to the New Hampshire primary at that time. Then, it was — that was the re-election of President Clinton. But right now you’re in the thick of it. Why don’t you describe what’s happening in New Hampshire now? You’re in Manchester, where President Trump held a rally of some 11,000 people last night. Right nearby, Bernie Sanders was in Durham at the University of New Hampshire, 7,500 people packed in. Talk about what’s happening today in your state.

ARNIE ARNESEN: Well, obviously, what Donald Trump does is what he does so well. He’s the performance-artist-in-chief. And he knew to come right into the center of this election in order to make sure that he was the attention and that we were not. I think he was not successful, Amy.

Let me just say something. I do think there’s going to be huge turnout today. And I think, in some ways, the reason why there needs to be even a bigger turnout is because of the disappointment in Iowa. And it’s not just the chaos in Iowa. It’s that they predicted there’d be a huge spike in youth turnout, there’d be a huge spike in turnout, bigger than even what happened with Barack Obama, and it didn’t even come close. And I think, to a large number of people, that is terrifying, not only the chaos, but the fact that there wasn’t that level of enthusiasm, given the fact that now the opposition is Donald Trump. It’s not whether there’s a Barack Obama on the stage or someone that sort of floats your boat. It’s that we really do have the tyrant-in-chief. And now, more than ever, we need to show up. We need to exercise, unfortunately, in Iowa, not the franchise, but we need to participate. I think you’re going to see a huge turnout here. I am praying that you see a huge turnout with young people. That has always been Bernie’s calling card, is that he can expand the base. And I know every young person that I possibly know, and nobody is doing anything but supporting Bernie, which I think is really exciting.

I am a little bit worried, though. And that is, is that there’s a lot of anxiety and fear and anger going into this campaign and this election. People are still undecided this morning, Amy. They’re undecided this morning. I have never seen the electorate so fluid. And here is my fear. My fear is, is that when you are undecided and when you are frightened, what you saw happen in Dixville Notch could happen today. And that is, we use a pencil in New Hampshire. That’s our technology. But not only do you get to fill in little circles, you can write in names. And although Michael Bloomberg, who would be our benevolent despot leader, is not running in New Hampshire, let me remind everyone: Not only is he buying ads in all the states, but the Super Tuesday states are what? Massachusetts and Vermont. What do we know about New Hampshire, a long, slender state? We are Massachusetts and Vermont. So, all those ads have also been appearing here. And because people are so afraid and don’t know where to go, he becomes the convenient punt. If I’m undecided, where do I go? That’s not a solution. That’s not democracy. You’ve ceded your voice. You’ve ceded your choice. And you say to the billionaire, “Not a problem. Take care of me.” That’s not what democracy does. But I’m going to tell you right now: Watch that, because he was — I suspect that what happened in Dixville Notch was in part because he’s so brilliant. All you have to do is sit down with five people and talk them through it, and what do you get? You get free media, on top of his billions of dollars. So I am just warning people that this is easy, but it’s not democratic, and therefore you have to make a choice.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Arnie, I wanted to ask you also about the fact that in this primary, independents and Republicans can vote, as well, right? The impact that that might have —

ARNIE ARNESEN: No.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — on the final tally for all the candidates?

ARNIE ARNESEN: That’s not correct. That’s not correct.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Oh, it’s not correct? OK.

ARNIE ARNESEN: Here’s the deal. We have — no, no. The largest group of voters in New Hampshire are undeclareds or independents. They represent about 42% of the state. The rest of it is divided up almost equally between Republicans and Democrats. Months ago, weeks ago, you had to make a decision, if you were in a party, if you were a Republican or if you were a Democrat, and wanted to become an undeclared, you had to decide then and change your status to undeclared, because only undeclareds can pick up either a Republican ballot or a Democratic ballot. That means Republicans can’t play in the Democratic primary, unless months ago or weeks ago they changed their status to undeclared.

So, but what that means is, is that whoever is running for president as a Democrat in New Hampshire has to court those undeclared voters. And I’d say that about probably a third of them are probably Republicans, and reliable Republicans, but they just choose not to associate. And then the rest of them are probably — another third are probably Democrat. But it’s that group in the center that I think a lot of the Democratic candidates are trying to court. So, don’t assume that what Donald Trump said — again, never trust the information coming out of Mr. Trump. Republicans cannot participate in a Democratic primary, only the undeclareds. But undeclareds are pivotal, everyone. They can significantly change the outcome.

AMY GOODMAN: And just to be clear, for people who are wondering what you mean by Dixville Notch, the community that votes at midnight, the first one in New Hampshire, that only had five votes, almost didn’t happen — right? — because a developer who didn’t live there full-time, they didn’t think he was going to come back.

ARNIE ARNESEN: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: And then there wouldn’t have been a quorum. But then he came back.

ARNIE ARNESEN: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: And that there were three write-in votes for Michael Bloomberg, one for Bernie Sanders and one for Buttigieg.

ARNIE ARNESEN: No, it’s an amazing story, but, unfortunately, it also gives you a headline. And Bloomberg understands that, because he can buy everything, including the most sophisticated consultants on the planet. And again, I’m telling you, people are still undecided.

And, Amy, let me just give you one example. One of the most thoughtful progressives I know in my state sent me an email, and he said, “My heart is with Elizabeth and Bernie, but my head is saying maybe Pete or Amy.” OK? So this is not about which side of the aisle, moderate or progressive. That he is even saying this should tell you something.

And then let’s go to the last debate. Never have I thought that debates mattered. But the last debate, before the New Hampshire primary, was probably the most pivotal debate I have ever seen in my life. One, ABC News gave them time to talk, which let me celebrate that. But what happened on that stage was that what you saw was that, you know, Biden, never, is a no-show. What you saw was Elizabeth Warren didn’t perform as well as her expectations. And Amy Klobuchar knocked it out of the park. And I have proof of that. Amy only got four questions, because she was low in the polls. Elizabeth got seven. Amy and Elizabeth had the same amount of time during that debate, because Amy knew how to elbow herself in, how to answer the questions, and she showed a form of leadership that at least some people recognize. That’s what happened to Elizabeth. Bernie did what he needed to do. No surprise. So I’m just telling you right now that that’s part of the problem. What Amy did in that debate helped her, when people are so unsettled about where to go. That you would look at a Warren and an Amy tells you about what people are looking at, and it’s not about agenda. It’s about Trump.

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Despite Corporate Media’s “War on Bernie,” Sanders Rides Wave of Support into New Hampshire Primary

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