Pulse of the Voters: New Hampshire voters weigh in on presidential race

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New Hampshire voters — with less than four months before they choose a primary candidate — say they’re weighing a vulnerable group of Democratic front-runners in a stagnating field and a lackluster trio of Republican challengers who have little hope of gaining traction against President Trump’s impeachment-riled base.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders continue to jockey at the top of the polls and at the forefront of Democratic voters’ minds.

While some voters have enthusiastically embraced their candidate of choice, others have identified issues with the front-runners — such as Biden’s debate performances and his family’s link to the Ukraine scandal, Sanders’ heart attack and democratic socialism, and Warren’s electability. Granite Staters, both undecided and committed, tell the Herald they’re keeping an eye on middle-tier candidates such as South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

And even as impeachment proceedings against Trump loom, Democrats and Republicans see little path forward for the president’s three primary challengers: former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, former Illinois U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, and Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman.

The Herald has put together a panel of New Hampshire voters from across the political spectrum to share their views on the state of the presidential race ahead of February’s first-in-the-nation primaries.

Despite Democrats’ best efforts to keep impeachment from dominating the 2020 race, voters say it’s permeated the discussion in New Hampshire.

“It seems the race has come to a stall with all the drama playing out in Washington,” said Conway Democrat Lorna Doherty, 67, who backs Warren. “There is little hope that the impeachment process can be wrapped up quickly.”

As they wait, Democrats say they’re looking at a race that has increasingly calcified around Warren, Sanders and Biden — and has remained largely stagnant in the weeks following Sanders’ heart attack.

Democrat Nathaniel Jarvie, 20, said, “The heart attack cannot be ignored” and that Sanders’ age was a factor in shifting his support from the Vermont senator in 2016 to Warren for 2020.

“Bernie deserves a lot of credit for making Americans hold their leaders’ feet to the fire,” Jarvie said. “However, I’m just not getting the magic I felt back in 2016.”

Manchester Democrat Casady Hospodar expressed concern about the “daunting” size of the 18-candidate Democratic field. She said voters are “being pulled in too many different directions, which may ultimately make it harder to win the election come November 2020 if we are unable to settle on the best choice.”

Londonderry Democrat Sangita Patel, 44, is leaning toward Warren, worried about Biden’s debate performances and his ability to “do well under pressure against Trump,” as well as Sanders’ brand of democratic socialism.

Patel hopes to choose a candidate based on the debates. So far, though, “no other candidates have stood out to a point that could move or inspire people to want to vote for them over the top three.”

But Kimberly Carole, 59, a Democratic delegate from Bedford, said, “It is still early and so yes, someone can definitely get traction. (Barack) Obama wasn’t a front-runner at this point when he won his historic win” in 2008.

Hampstead independent Karl Hubner, 41, who describes himself as “GOP-ish,” said he intends to pull a Democratic primary ballot because Trump “needs to go.”

Hubner called Biden “the obvious candidate because he can get white working males and the African American vote” and said “rumors of Biden’s demise are highly premature.”

“I think Sanders still has no crossover, which is what doomed him in 2016, and Warren is a rich, white liberal woman. I don’t know if she can pull African American voters away from Biden,” Hubner said. “Pete still would have to overcome racial problems because of issues in South Bend and his inexperience, but he is more and more intriguing to me.”

When it comes to the Republican slate, party activist Nancy Kindler, 71, said Trump’s rivals — whom she’s met all of — “don’t stand a chance in hell.”

Kindler, an unabashed Trump supporter, said the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry is “reversing on them, because there’s more and more people coming for Trump than ever before.” In her roughly five decades of activism, Kindler said, “I have never seen so much enthusiasm to want to see a president get reelected in my life, and that’s the reaction coming from this.”

“All the (Democrats) are doing is taking the focus off what can be done to take care of our country,” she said.

Bow Republican Tim Hall, 70, said Trump “will probably get reelected because of his core base. It’s doubtful any of the Democrats can challenge him to any serious degree.”

Hall said the 2020 race is “all about defeating Trump.” He’s “still hoping that Bill Weld can gain more recognition with voters,” but admitted the three Republican challengers have “not a chance.”

Meet the Herald’s voter panel:

Nathaniel Jarvie
Age: 20
Town: Keene, N.H.
Occupation: Student
Party Affiliation: Democrat

Casady Hospodar
Age: 32
Town: Manchester, N.H.
Occupation: Background check specialist
Party Affiliation: Democrat

Karl Hubner
Age: 41
Town: Hampstead, N.H.
Occupation: Teacher
Party Affiliation: Independent

Sangita Patel
Age: 44
Town: Londonderry, N.H.
Occupation: Customer service
Party Affiliation: Democrat

Kimberly Carole
Age: 59
Town: Bedford, N.H.
Occupation: Self-employed
Party Affiliation: Democrat

Lorna Doherty
Age: 67
Town: Conway, N.H.
Occupation: Credit manager
Party Affiliation: Democrat

Tim Hall
Age: 70
Town: Bow, N.H.
Occupation: Retired
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nancy Kindler
Age: 71
Town: Epping, N.H.
Occupation: Retired, Republican activist
Party Affiliation: Republican

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