MANCHESTER, N.H. — Thousands of rowdy New Hampshire Democrats rocked the 12,000-person SNHU Arena in downtown Manchester on Saturday night, marking the largest and loudest gathering to see Democratic White House hopefuls as they made their final pitch to voters ahead of the state’s primary election.
The candidates stressed unity and the urgent need to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in short speeches given one after another.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigeig, the leaders in New Hampshire, and a half-dozen of their rivals electrified voters at the McIntyre-Shaheen Hundred Club Event.
Their supporters clashed, erupting with rival chants as the candidates struggled to speak over the din to get through their stump speeches.
“I know there are differences in opinion in the room, I see that, I detect that,” Sanders said.
“But despite the differences of opinion in the candidates we are supporting…no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, we’ll come together to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country.”
The annual dinner had the feel of a stadium concert or a top flight sporting event, attracting the likes of actor Michael J. Fox, the founders of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and the Irish ambassador.
Supporters of the different candidates were seated in rival sections looking down at the fenced-off arena where the candidates took the stage and campaign aides and state party leaders sat for dinner.
Voters wore color-coded shirts and hats to show their allegiances. Hype music blasted through the arena speakers. Vendors sold drinks and nachos as spectators feasted their eyes on the stage as if it were fight night in Las Vegas.
The party gathering comes at a time of deep uncertainty among Granite State voters and national Democrats.
The Iowa caucuses effectively ended in a tie between Sanders and Buttigieg. New Hampshire voters — most of whom are independents — are known to break late. There is heavy pressure to pick the candidate with the best shot at defeating President Donald Trump, and anxiety looms as voters express concern about arriving at a nominee that will lose to the incumbent in the general election.
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However, the candidates, aware of voters’ apprehension, sought to quell anxiety and make the case for their electability.
Buttigieg, the 38-year-old surprise candidate of 2020, spoke first and made the case for generational change. He also leaned into the idea that Democrats should nominate a candidate from the Midwest, saying his experience as a Midwest mayor gives him a connection to ordinary Americans.
“We’re tired of being reduced to a punchline in Washington politics and are ready for someone to take our voice to the Washington capitol,” Buttigieg said. “That’s how we’re going to defeat Donald Trump.”
Sanders’s supporters attempted to interrupt Buttigieg with chants of “Wall Street Pete,” while Buttigieg’s yellow-shirted supporters countered with chants of “Boot-Edge-Edge.”
Biden’s supporters were largely quiet during the address.
Biden and Buttigieg have been locked in a fierce battle over electability and are both running to be the party’s centrist standard-bearer.
The former vice president had a fairly tame section of supporters and scattered empty seats. Biden had a lackluster performance in the Iowa Caucuses, finishing in fourth place. He has also sought to tamp down expectations about where he’ll finish in New Hampshire.
But despite these challenges, the former vice president received a standing ovation with a fiery speech, urging all Democrats to get out to the ballot box and run Trump out of the White House.
“Let’s do it now, now, now!,” Biden said, before walking off stage.
Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.) might have had the largest group of supporters. The Massachusetts Democrat leaned heavily into the idea that the party should nominate a woman to defeat Trump.
“The way I see it, they’ll keep saying that [a woman can’t win] right up until the point we get in the fight, we persist, and we win,” Warren said.
Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.) also gave a lively speech, drawing on themes of unity and grit. At times she appeared to become emotional discussing her presidential run.
“We’ve beaten the odds every step of the way,” Klobuchar said.
The Minnesota senator was widely viewed as one of the winners of Friday’s debate. She raised $2 million in the hours after the debate and could be in line for a late surge to Election Day.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickIt’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Top Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden Andrew Yang endorses Biden in 2020 race MORE, who has trailed in the polls since entering the race in November, brought in 800 supporters, according to his campaign.
Businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangGeorge Floyd protests show corporations must support racial and economic equality Andrew Yang discusses his universal basic income pilot program Andrew Yang on the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis MORE’s supporters gathered in the stadium’s upper level wearing trademark “Math” swag. Sanders’s supporters greeted Yang’s speech with big cheers.
Businessman Steyer pushed Democratic unity, saying all of the party’s candidates running were better than President Trump.
“We’re going to have to kick his ass on the economy,” Steyer told the crowd.
Outside the arena, hyped groups of protesters and supporters lined the street in the 18-degree cold.
Supporters of President Trump could be seen carrying campaign signs, waving flags and chanting, “Four more years! Four more years!”
One woman walked past a large sign for Elizabeth Warren, put her hand over her mouth and made the stereotypical gesture meant to insult Native Americans.