The clock is running for voters to meet and greet Democratic presidential hopefuls in the homey confines of Granite State house parties and breakfast diners now that New Hampshire has officially set its primary election for 11 weeks from now.
“We have a big field,” New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner told reporters Monday. “This state, because of the exceptional turnout, the representation is huge compared to any other place in the country.”
The Granite State’s presidential primary is set for Feb. 11, eight days after Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Gardner set the date Monday during a statehouse news conference.
Democratic candidates from neighboring states, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have emphasized New Hampshire’s importance to their campaigns. A third candidate geographically familiar with New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, began a primary effort earlier this month and made a series of appearances there Monday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg are also among the leading Democrats targeting New Hampshire voters.
In the Republican primary, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh are attempting long-shot campaigns against President Trump.
Gardner has been an ardent defender of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status, even as some now question if the overwhelmingly white state should have such influence as one of the first states to vote in the Democratic nominating process. Gardner also expressed his opposition to early voting during a press conference at the Statehouse Monday.
“We’ve always been at the top of the country. … I want New Hampshire to remain at the top for the voting,” Gardner said. “The facts speak for themselves. Early voting does not guarantee that you get more people to vote and in a state like New Hampshire with the political culture that we have here and the political tradition that we have here, voting is a community.”
Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro’s presidential campaign, which has wound down its presence in the state, criticized New Hampshire and Iowa in a statement earlier this month, saying the states “have had a monopoly on going first, despite a severe lack of diversity that is at odds with how we are winning elections across the country.”
Herald wire services contributed to this report.