New Hampshire suddenly means more to Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as the two rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination prepare to go head-to-head in the Granite State.
Clinton and Sanders, the final contestants in a Democratic contest that’s grown more pointed, meet in a debate in Durham hosted by the University of New Hampshire Thursday night, five days before the state holds its presidential primary. The MSNBC broadcast begins at 9 p.m.
Clinton, coming off a narrow victory at the Iowa caucuses on Monday, has stepped up her efforts in New Hampshire while simultaneously lowballing her chances in a state where Sanders has held a huge lead in the polls through most of the race. Sanders is counting on a victory in his neighbor state to propel him in the next two primary states, South Carolina and Nevada, which are viewed as strong Clinton states.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley dropped out of the Democratic contest after getting about 1 percent of the vote in Iowa.
Clinton scored a razor-thin victory in Iowa (though the Sanders campaign hadn’t quite conceded yet). But New Hampshire presents a different voter calculus because independent voters can participate in either party’s primary. According to the New Hampshire secretary of state, about 43 percent of the state’s voters are neither Republican nor Democrat.
That makes New Hampshire tough to handicap, said Lawrence Levy, a Hofstra University political analyst.
“New Hampshire voters are really open-minded and wait till the last minute to decide,” Levy said. “They want to see and hear and even physically touch a candidate before making a decision. Unlike Iowa, it has an increasing number of communities that bear a demographic and political resemblance the swing areas that are going to make a difference this November.”
Both Sanders and Clinton flew immediately from Iowa after the caucus to New Hampshire and began barnstorming the state. The two participated in a “town hall” event Wednesday night in Derry, New Hampshire, even though it’s not an officially sanctioned debate. Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife in Nashua Tuesday, predicting she’ll do “surprisingly well.”
But at the same time, Hillary Clinton sought to lower expectations against Sanders, saying “New Hampshire always favors neighbors,” according to multiple reports.
The attacks and counterattacks have grown sharper as the primary nears. Sanders, at a stop in Keene, said that Clinton was a progressive “some days.” Clinton called that a “low blow.” Playing up her long experience as first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state, Clinton reportedly said: “If it’s about our records, hey, I’m gonna win by a landslide.”