The N.H. Democratic primary is made for Elizabeth Warren — at least on paper
When Elizabeth Warren makes her first trip to New Hampshire on Saturday as a national candidate, she will find a key early state that — at least on paper — appears hand-crafted to fit her potential presidential candidacy.
First, Democrats in New Hampshire tend to vote for progressive candidates in primaries. They also tend to pick candidates from neighboring states, and the state is a national leader when it comes to electing women.
Indeed, as Warren steps on the stage at Manchester Community College on Saturday afternoon, it’s likely no other candidate checks as many boxes with New Hampshire Democrats at the moment. And given the large number of potential candidates — as many as two dozen — that’s definitely an asset.
“She walks in with many structural advantages,” said state Representative Sharon Nordgren, a Democratic power broker from the state’s Upper Valley. Nordgren is undecided about which candidate she will back in 2020.
Take a closer look at New Hampshire’s recent voting patterns, and the trends are clear.
When it comes to progressive candidates the Democratic Party has shifted left. In the last presidential primary, US Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, beat Hillary Clinton by more than 22 points.
Progressives now dominate town Democratic committees and in the newly Democratic Legislature.
In terms of geographical bias, every Democratic neighbor has won the state’s first-in-the-nation primary — think John F. Kennedy, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Paul Tsongas, Maine’s Ed Muskie, and Sanders.
There’s only one exception: Ted Kennedy’s challenge to US President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
And in the recent Democratic primary for governor, voters faced a choice between two candidates who each offered nearly identical platforms — both of which included some of the most progressive stances in the state party’s history. They each called for a $15 an hour minimum wage, to repeal the death penalty, increase taxes, and install restrictions on gun ownership. The primary featured a man and a woman.
The woman, Molly Kelly, won the nomination, by nearly two-to-one (she lost in November to Republican Governor Chris Sununu).
As recently as two years ago, the state elected an all-female, all-Democrat delegation to Congress — a first in the country. Indeed, the state’s history is filled with “firsts” for electing women. Jeanne Shaheen was the first woman in the United States to serve as both governor and US senator. The state’s other senator, Maggie Hassan, is the second.
Despite this, Warren’s toughest competition in New Hampshire may well be Sanders, if he decides to run. He won the state last time as a progressive. He is also from a neighboring state.
And, unlike Warren, he has visited the state often and already boasts a political infrastructure of supporters. At the same time, Warren will be introducing herself at a Concord house party Saturday, Sanders supporters have organized house parties of their own in three different towns.
Yet even the woman who ran Sanders’s campaign in the state in 2016, Julia Barnes, believes that Warren will find a warm reception this weekend and beyond.
“I think she will bring the kind of depth in policy, personal connection, and openness that New Hampshire voters look for,” said Barnes, who is unaffiliated with any campaign so far. “She’s a very strong campaigner. I think she’ll find great support.”
Warren hasn’t set foot in the state since the closing days of the 2016 general election campaign. In the time since, she gave a $25,000 donation to the state Democratic Party, loaned the organization two of her staffers, and helped raise money for major Democratic candidates through e-mails and in-person fund-raising events in Boston.
Warren announced the formation of an exploratory committee last week and quickly jetted off to Iowa, where she had five events that were heavily attended.
Her trip to New Hampshire on Saturday so far includes the public rally in Manchester and the private house party in Concord, at the same home where Clinton ended her first day of campaigning in the state four years ago. Warren will return to New Hampshire on Feb. 22 to give the keynote speech at a major state Democratic fund-raising dinner.
Nordgren, the state representative, said the question now is whether Warren can capitalize on all this over the next year.
“All we in New Hampshire really know about her is from television,” Nordgren said. “The test on whether she will be successful here is whether she can connect directly to voters when she shows up.”