What’s it like to be in New Hampshire just before two big-time presidential primaries? We’ll show you over the next few days. Leave a comment, and send us questions @FiveThirtyEight.
MANCHESTER — Dearest readers, we close up shop on our New Hampshire diary with a bit of a look back. Since we arrived in the Granite State, we’ve been asking people whether their vote has shifted because of last week’s Iowa results.
Tomorrow, primary day, we’ll get an answer. On the site, there will be all sorts of coverage. In the morning we’ll publish a series of articles with election day thoughts and analysis. And in the early evening we’ll launch another live blog with more of a focus on results and analysis as the returns start to come in. We’ll be with you through the final vote tally. For now, check out the updated primary forecast, our latest podcast, and all our politics coverage. Thanks for tagging along these last few days, see you tomorrow!
MANCHESTER — We attended a Ted Cruz town hall earlier today in Barrington. Two things struck me. The first was who introduced Cruz: former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith. Smith was a very conservative senator who had a falling out with the state party and was defeated in a 2002 primary by John Sununu. Smith speaks to Cruz’s own conservative record and troubles with his Republican colleagues.
The second is that Cruz was quite funny in person. While his jokes sometimes fall flat in debates, they pretty much all hit today. Up close, you can get an appreciation for why he did well in Iowa, and will probably be in this race for the foreseeable future.
Harry’s focus in the ABC News GOP debate spin room on Saturday was … backward looking:
We took a little time before the Super Bowl* yesterday to record our latest elections podcast, with some thoughts about what we’re seeing in New Hampshire, and what we expect to happen in tomorrow’s primary. Listen to it below, or track it down on iTunes.
*We had to edit this out for time, but for the record I predicted the Broncos would win and that Von Miller would be the MVP.
RINDGE — A few days ago, we hopped into our rented SUV (which features a heated steering wheel, but that’s for another post) and trekked south and west to a Bernie Sanders rally at Franklin Pierce University. On the way into the gymnasium (home of the Ravens), I took out my phone and became possibly the first person to ever Google “fun facts about Franklin Pierce.” The first result I got was a Mental Floss article listing five things you may not know about our 14th president.
No. 1 fact about Pierce? “He is America’s most obscure president.” It goes:
Thirteenth president Millard Fillmore is generally regarded as America’s least-known president. That is a distinction Franklin Pierce lacks, making him even more obscure than Fillmore.
This, friends is a flawless pirouette of logic. And we’re buying it.
But it got us thinking about whether there was any way to actually quantify who our most obscure president is. One data set that provides a clue is Sporcle’s online U.S. presidents quiz. More than 6.5 million people have played it so far, and it turns out, Pierce is pretty forgettable! Only 58.3 percent of respondents remembered New Hampshire’s only president. But Pierce is only the fourth-most-obscure president, according to this list. He’s practically a rock star compared with Warren G. Harding, Chester A. Arthur and … Rutherford B. Hayes. Remember him? Exactly.
When Nate, Jody, and I were driving home from a Hillary Clinton town hall meeting yesterday evening, we took our exit off I-93, drove up the slight incline of the exit ramp to a red light, and at the top, as the buildings across the street came into view, we saw a large screen with bright white letters that said “Heroin dealers.” As we stared in puzzlement, the screen switched to the next frame: “Shitheads!!”
It was an advertisement for a local political campaign, and the politician in question was running on the issue of New Hampshire’s drug problem. We’ve heard a lot about drug abuse in the state over the past few days. In last night’s debate, Republican candidates were asked how serious they are about addressing drug use (in New Hampshire and the country as a whole) and a statistic was cited: 48 percent of people in New Hampshire know somebody who has abused heroin.
Clinton cited that same statistic, which comes from a local ABC affiliate poll, in yesterday’s town hall. Ted Cruz held a town hall the day before yesterday, where an audience member asked him about pain-killer abuse and whether he would do anything to curb the ability of pharmaceutical companies to market their drugs to doctors and hospitals.
To try to get a sense of how New Hampshire’s drug problem compares to that of other states, I looked up some data from the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. When it comes to drug use among all adults, New Hampshire ranks in the top ten; but when it comes to drug use among 18- to 25-year-olds, the state is a marked outlier:
BEDFORD — I just left a Chris Christie event here, and it wasn’t difficult to see why Christie was once seen as a major contender for the Republican nomination. He spoke with power and conviction, and he shared the stage with two fellow blue state governors, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland. While Christie probably always had little chance of winning the nomination — his candidacy has some fundamental flaws — he had a shot of doing decently here in New Hampshire. Now, of the more moderate New Hampshire-centric candidates, Christie is running third, behind both Jeb Bush and John Kasich.
What happened? One can’t help but think Christie (who was polling first among Bush and Kasich at the beginning of January) “peaked” too early. He faced an ad onslaught, and as a result, his campaign may be over in roughly 72 hours.
Another hyper-anecdotal report on radio ads: After an hour driving around in Iowa and scanning through the dial, I’d heard about a dozen political ads. After half a day in New Hampshire, we’ve only heard one, for Chris Chrisite. The campaigns are spending upwards of $100 million on ads ahead of Tuesday’s vote, though, so we’ll surely find ourselves saturated and check in more on what we see and hear. For now, though, we’re listening to Fleetwood Mac.
HOLLIS — “Kasich has been pushed aside,” Sue Mitchell, an undecided Brookline, New Hampshire, voter said as she waited for the governor of Ohio to arrive at a townhall here. “I don’t know, he’s not dynamic.”
Which seemed a shame to her, since she likes the guy, along with Chris Christie, who Mitchell, a 70-year-old retired lab tech, said impressed her with his off-the-cuffness. She also stood for six hours to see Donald Trump speak — “he has good points but he’s so abrasive.”
Seated next to Mitchell, clutching a Dunkin Donuts coffee, Jane Edmonds, a 66-year-old retiree from Hollis, said she was voting for Kasich, and while she doesn’t like Trump, she said doubted his second place finish in Iowa would affect New Hampshire voters — “I think New Hampshire thinks for itself.”
Kasich’s townhall rhetoric seemed to be betting on this no-labels streak; he talked about his postal worker/coal miner lineage and his both-sides-of-the-aisle pragmatism throughout his career, fielding questions with a ticking clock of the national debt at his back. “The Democrats and the Republicans both like to spend, it’s just that the Republicans feel bad doing it,” he said, earning a small chuckle from the crowd.
It was a talk largely missing the big applause lines that are so frequent at other candidate events in this big personality-driven GOP race. Kasich’s style is a bit loping and idiosyncratic; it takes him a while to circle back to his talking points since he likes to take his metaphors and anecdotes out for a stroll first — his comparison of pepperoni pizza to the state of public education was a little hard to follow.
Where he did elicit applause and a moment of connection with the audience was towards the end of his remarks when he touched on the state’s drug problem and about the need to speak with people who are “lonely and isolated” who “want to share their victories and defeats — we need to connect again,” he said.
Asked by reporters after the event about the mood of the Republican electorate, Kasich tried dismiss the notion that it was a time of anger in the party. “I’ve done 99 town hall meetings and people come and many of them say they’re hopeful,” he said. “This whole business that people are anti experience or angry, I dont find that.”
But, he said, “maybe that’s because I tell them the story of what can be done.”