Think the dynamic of the Democratic presidential race is set in Bernie-Biden-Elizabeth stone?
You won’t if you spend some time chatting with voters in the Granite State.
Some New Hampshire residents have hardly thought at all about the 2020 election — or their first-in-the-nation presidential primary (which takes place Feb. 11).
“Anyone but Trump,” was the three-word answer I got from several too-busy-to-talk-during-lunch people in picturesque Portsmouth.
Another Portsmouth boulevardier told me he no longer voted or even paid attention to politics. Because he found it all irrelevant? “Because I’m a felon.” Oh. (Awkward, as my teenage niece would say.)
A quartet of Jehovah’s Witnesses said they were following the campaign from afar, but that their theology taught them not to get involved in worldly affairs, so they wouldn’t be voting. A thought: Given how many evangelical leaders came to the perplexing conclusion that Donald Trump was the right moral choice in 2016, they might want to adopt the Witnesses’ apolitical policy — and quit offering dubious political guidance to their flocks.
But even among nonreligious, non-felonious voters who are paying attention to the race, minds are far from made up. Discussions of possible primary choices were about candidates who had piqued their interest, not won their firm support.
Usually, two or three fell into that category. The one I heard most often?
So why Buttigieg?
“He’s like a white Obama,” opined one middle-aged admirer who didn’t want her name used.
David Noard, an 81-year-old actor who does a one-man show as Vincent Van Gogh, was more excited about Tuesday’s potentially development-curbing local election in Portsmouth than next year’s primary. But after municipal matters were thoroughly masticated, he allowed that though he’d voted for Bernie Sanders last time around, he was now worried about Sanders’ vitality and would be just as happy with Elizabeth Warren or . . . Pete Buttigieg.
Bill, a retired professional and MIT graduate, said he had liked Warren but, “with her Medicare thing,” now worried she’d face “too many fights,” and so was looking at Yang and . . . Pete Buttigieg.
In downtown Dover, Nicole Haidaczuk, an activity aide for a retirement community who had liked Beto O’Rourke, said she now leaned toward . . . “Mayor Pete” because he “checks a lot of boxes.” To wit: He’s smart, well-spoken, Christian, gay, and a veteran. Co-worker Kathryn Moffett was intrigued by Yang — and made it a point to say she definitely didn’t want Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren. Warren, however, had her fans. Mary Vogt, a media analyst and one-time Sanders supporter, said she liked Warren because she was a woman and had “a good set of values.” And after that? “Pete Buttigieg.”
Since I’d come to New Hampshire to watch the on-the-stump performance of Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, I asked most of my interviewees about him.
First, some bad news for the late-starting Colorado senator, who has made the stage in only two of the four DNC debates: Few knew much about him.
Now some good news: One who does — and who attended a Bennet town hall event in Dover —- was Billy Shaheen, husband of US Senator Jeanne Shaheen and a storied politico in his own right.
The senator herself won’t be endorsing, but Billy probably will.
Better news: Bennet’s funny, medium-key, politics-of-the-liberal-possible performance impressed a group of 60 or so looking for a candidate with a strong chance of ousting Donald Trump.
Was he really tough enough to take on Trump, one woman wanted to know?
In reply, Bennet asked her to view a much-watched Senate moment where he rips into Ted Cruz over the latter’s political hypocrisy.
Afterward, Shaheen, whose endorsement would impart instant credibility for Bennet with New Hampshire Democratic activists, pronounced himself impressed, saying Bennet had done “really well.”
Shaheen is also interested in Amy Klobuchar and . . . Pete Buttigieg — and plans to meet with Warren soon. Before he imparts his nod, he said, he wants to be sure that his favored candidate can be a player in the primary.
But he also noted, tellingly: “I really like Michael.”
Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.