MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Voters who spoke to Breitbart News at political events across the Granite State during the New Hampshire primary suggested they preferred candidates who could show a stylistic contrast to President Donald Trump.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won a narrow victory over former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) was not far behind him, in third place.
Nancy Lubarsky, who traveled to New Hampshire with her husband from New Jersey just to see and hear all of the candidates, said Buttigieg was the one who impressed her the most.
“He seems sincere,” she said of Buttigieg, as she waited outside the Sanders victory party on Tuesday night. “And I like his moral compass.”
That word — “moral” — was one that recurred in conversations with Buttigieg voters. At his election-eve rally in Exeter, a middle-aged female voter told Breitbart News that he “has a moral center.”
In an earlier political era, it might have been odd to hear voters referring to the “moral” values of an openly gay candidate, whose lifestyle clashes with traditional norms.
But what seemed to impress voters — anecdotally, female voters in particular — is that he spoke about politics in terms of a higher set of values, beyond partisan politics or economic grievance.
Buttigieg rode that appeal to a second-place finish that would have seemed very unlikely until just a few weeks ago.
Klobuchar, who surged from the back in the last week, struck a chord with voters who were dissatisfied with the other candidates — and part of the reason was her plain-spoken style.
An NBC News exit poll suggested that nearly half of Democratic voters in New Hampshire made up their minds in the last few days — an astonishing number, considering that the various 2020 campaigns have already been in the state for years.
Many were impressed by Klobuchar’s performance in the Democrat debate last Friday, where she told voters that people “are tired of the noise and the nonsense. And they are tired of the tweets and the mean stuff and they are looking for someone else. And I would submit that that is me.”
Klobuchar’s stump speech is long-winded, heavy on detail — in a word, boring. But with Sanders talking about “revolution,” and President Donald Trump loudly battling his foes, Klobuchar’s tone seems, to many in her party, a welcome contrast.
Buttigieg and Klobuchar have fueded on the debate stage — and she has struggled to hide her irritation that he has received so much money and attention with so few political accomplishments or experience. She has also grumbled that a female candidate with his thin résumé would never be taken so seriously.
But what Buttigieg and Klobuchar have in common are that they are both from the Midwest; they both want to offer Medicare as an “option,” rather than a mandatory policy for everyone; and they both are providing a contrast in styles to Sanders on the left and Trump on the right.
Their “vanilla” flavor may not play as well in states with a more diverse Democratic Party electorate. But it may appeal to voters tired of being offered “Hot Cinnamon Ice Cream with one very large chocolate disc on top and a (very stiff) butter toffee backbone going down the middle” (the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor devoted to Sanders).
Arguably, the president may have earned the right to taunt foes like billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent over $100 million promoting impeachment and has now spent new millions on a presidential race he is losing badly. Trump ribbed Steyer last night, after his dismal showing: “Not easy to do what I did, is it?”
But as voters begin to tune in, many seem to be looking for a politics that sounds different. Their rivals — and the president — may need to adjust their rhetoric, accordingly.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.