New Hampshire Voters Different And Same

Feb 8, 2016

Tuesday is the New Hampshire primary. Among Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders holds a significant lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On the other side, Donald Trump holds a double-digit lead, followed by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. What do New Hampshire voters want and consider their top issues? How different are they from Florida voters or Iowa voters? Patricia Mazzei, political reporter for the Miami Herald, has been following the Rubio and Jeb Bush campaigns. 

Well it's been busy and that's just trailing the two Miami candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Occasionally you get to hit other candidates' events, but we really want to focus on the hometown guys. And oftentimes they have events at the same times in different places across the state so you have to pick and choose -- either run from one to the other or what I prefer to do is spend a full day with one of the candidates and then a full day with the other to kind of see how they evolved through the day and to not just go to one event that may be great or terrible and not get a full picture of their campaign.

What are some of the issues that seem to resonate most with New Hampshire voters?

Well they're very different from Iowa voters who tend to be more religious,  more socially conservative. In New Hampshire you have independents who can vote in the primaries. So things are a little bit more moderated. They're also more secular. You don't hear so much of the religious talk here. The issues tend to be fiscal and economic. There's a bit of a libertarian strain. Don't forget that this is the state whose motto is Live Free or Die. So they like to stress that at campaign events and candidates make sure to note it as well.

Do you see any similarities between what voters care about in New Hampshire versus what you see as the priorities for voters in South Florida?

I think there's overlap,  I mean especially within each of the parties. You'll hear more about domestic issues. You know Social Security health care education on the Democratic side and you'll also hear foreign policy,  but you know it comes kind of as a secondary, whereas you hear more foreign policy and national security talk on the Republican side and certainly more concern about the economy under Obama because obviously they're running against the president in the White House. I don't think the issues are that different across the country. There are still some kind of parochial issues.  Jeb Bush got asked at a town hall about the  moose population in New Hampshire and that's not the kind of question you'll ever get in South Florida or outside of New Hampshire probably. In Iowa, for example, they were asked about ethanol, which the state produces. But we have seen that politics have gotten more and more national and they get fewer and fewer questions that are just about local issues.

Now I've never been in New Hampshire,  but I have been in Vermont so I imagine they're very similar,  very rural areas. Are there any concerns though with voters there the way we have concerns here about things like traffic congestion, crumbling roads, bridges,  things like that?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appears with his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, at a campaign event in New Hampshire.
Credit @PatriciaMazzei / Miami Herald

There are some questions about infrastructure, for example, and bridges and roads. But you're right;  this is not an urban setting. So crime is not nearly as big an issue as it would be if they were campaigning in a different state. And that is why the results of the early states are sometimes problematic. They're not always representative of where the party is elsewhere in the country,  and that's why when you dig into some of the results you try to find trends that you can extrapolate elsewhere. So Marco Rubio did well with urban and suburban young people in Iowa. There are not that many of them,  but perhaps that will mean that he'll do better in states that have a lot of urban and suburban populations. These are the kinds of analysie that political consultants like to do to see where they can play up their candidates as the primaries move along.

Now I know from my geography New Hampshire has a very small coast line compared to what Florida has. But does the issue of sea level rise mean anything to New Hampshire voters.

It has come up. You hear it in New Hampshire where voters ask: What are you going to do about climate change; do you believe in climate change; isn't it overblown? Some of the Republican voters will ask or others will say I really want to vote for someone who wants to do something about climate change who is a Republican. This is particularly at Rubio and Bush events,  and don't forget they draw groups of voters that is probably different from some other candidates and the answers are what we have heard in South Florida. They acknowledge the issue,  but they rely more on future technologies helping resolve it rather than cutting carbon emissions right now. And so that is a point of friction sometimes with with some voters who would like to see more done. Other voters you know straight up will ask the candidate, Don't you think climate change is a hoax?

In a sentence or two how would you describe the Rubio campaign and the Bush campaign right now.

Well I think New Hampshire could be a make or break for Bush. He will face a lot of pressure if he does not do well here from others in the party who will say: How long are you going to be willing to wait it out? He has money and organization and so that can let him ride things out longer than some of his rivals. But there is a big amount of expectations for him here that it will be important for him in the future. As for Rubio,  you know he doesn't have to win New Hampshire,  but he does have to do well here to try to consolidate some of the good establishment Republican vote, and if he can do better than expected, again if he can get close to Trump or best Ted Cruz who won Iowa, then that could put him on a roll for the other states and eventually perhaps help him win one of the early states.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio waves as he takes the stage to speak during a campaign event Tuesday in Exeter, N.H.
Credit Steven Senne AP / Miami Herald

So let's imagine that no matter what happens on Tuesday the Bush campaign's going to keep moving forward. What do you see the candidates changing perhaps in their campaign strategy as they go to South Carolina?

I think it's going to depend on the results here. I mean they are already advertising in South Carolina. They've already had supporters of volunteers knocking on doors there because it's coming out, you know, just 10 days or so after New Hampshire. So you can't just focus on one step at a time;  you really have to be looking ahead, and where they'll focus on and who they perceive as their more immediate opponent. It's going to depend on where they end up here.