- - Monday, October 28, 2019

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is currently atop the polls in New Hampshire, told students at Keene State College last week “We need big, systemic change in this country, and I got a plan.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won the Granite State with 60 percent of the vote in 2016 and remains a top-tier competitor, is promising a “political revolution.”

“When you think big, we can make transformative change,” he told a rally in Plymouth, N.H. in September.

And how are the voters of New Hampshire responding? “Whatevs.”

There may be no place in America where the message of 2020 Democrats and the lives of the voters they’re hoping to attract are farther apart. While Ms. Warren wails about Americans living in economic desperation and Mr. Sanders insists socialism is the only solution for the free market’s failure, Granite Staters are living some of the best life in the country.



In fact, U.S. News & World Report named New Hampshire the second-best state to live in the United States.

New Hampshire’s economy is booming. Businesses are literally closing for lack of workers. The median household income is $71,3065, the eighth highest in the United states. It has the nation’s lowest poverty rate, it’s the best place to raise a child and just this week the Tax Foundation ranked it the only New England state in the top 10 for pro-growth tax policy.

Do Granite State Dems really want to “burn it all down?”

It’s true that Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders are doing well in New Hampshire — better than any other early state — and it’s true that a New Hampshire Journal poll earlier this year found that 60 percent of the state’s Democrats say they support America becoming a more socialist country.

“But look who wins our elections,” says Kathy Sullivan, former chair of the state Democratic Party and the state’s Democratic National Committeewoman. “It’s almost never the candidate on the extreme.”

She has a point. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who also served two terms as governor, has built her entire brand on being a centrist Democrat. She’s also one of the 10 most popular U.S. senators in the country.

None of the Granite State’s D.C. representatives are bomb-throwers, and they’re all relatively popular back home. If there were a “Status Quo Party” in New Hampshire, it would be at 80 percent.

And its mascot would be Joe Biden.

The former vice president remains popular here, despite his relatively weak performance of late. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also continues to poll comparatively well, essentially making up the entire “second-tier” of candidates at around 10 percent. And many political insiders believe Sen. Amy Klobuchar has a potential path forward here as a centrist voice. (Plus, she knows how to hold a press conference in the snow.)

So why in the land of contentment are candidates of our discontent like Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders still doing so well?

Geography.

Ask yourself: What do Bernie Sanders, Mitt Romney, John Kerry, Paul Tsongas and Mike Dukakis (and if you want to go way back, Ed Muskie and Henry Cabot Lodge) all have in common? They’re all New Englanders who won the New Hampshire primary. Local candidates aren’t a lock — Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton dropped out of the POTUS primary without ever breaking the Blutarsky barrier (“Zero point zero.”)

But geography has historically been one of the most significant factors in the First in the Nation primary, and also the most overlooked. It’s not the only reason Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton here — as evidenced by her recent behavior — but it helped.

Which is why, despite the cognitive dissonance of her message, many New Hampshire Democratic insiders expect to add Liz Warren’s name to the New Hampshire winner’s list. She’s got a strong organization here, plus an army of volunteers who can cross the border from Massachusetts and knock on doors. She’s going to be tough to beat, no matter what happens in Iowa.

Will geography overcome economics in the Granite State? It’s still early, but right now that’s probably the best bet.

• Michael Graham is politics editor of New Hampshire Journal. 

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