Nashua, NH - With two wins and 21 delegates now under his belt, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is closer to the Democratic presidential nomination than anyone else in the field. And that gives many Americans pause. Including, I discovered this past week in New Hampshire, quite a few moderate Democrats who are considering voting for former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
I camped out at Buttigieg's primary rally on Tuesday night at Nashua Community College, while Matt did the same at Sen. Sanders' shindig in Manchester. They were the Granite State frontrunners, but Sanders pulled out the win with 25.8 percent of the vote. Buttigieg came close, however. Here's how his supporters reacted when a CNN key alert update showed the mayor within just two percentage points of the senator.
The Sanders campaign can sense Buttigieg is hot on its heels and it can explain why the senator has been reminding voters that Buttigieg has taken donations from millionaires and billionaires, as opposed to his supposed grassroots-funded campaign.
Buttigieg's supporters say their candidate is above such attacks and has maintained a positive, even joyful message. And it's a message he doesn't scream at voters. One of Buttigieg's younger supporters, Jared, said he likes Mayor Pete's moderate agenda and mild temperament.
"He's not as angry as Bernie," he said.
For many of the folks I talked to last night, the No. 1 goal is to defeat President Trump is November, and Buttigieg is the guy to get it done. So the Sanders' streak is alarming.
"Now, being supporters of Pete, we’re worried about Bernie," admitted Carly, a younger voter from Merrimack, NH.
A group I chatted with at length from Indianapolis, Indiana said they're looking for "a progressive candidate, but a pragmatic candidate that can actually get things done." They, too, mentioned Mayor Pete's appealing temperament.
"He's got a brilliant way - an eloquent way - of framing all his complex issues that we all feel like are existential threats. He can frame them in such a way that tribes are not warring at each other. We can all listen and say, 'Yeah, he makes sense, and his solutions are realistic.'"
As opposed to Sanders? The group of friends preferred not to speak ill of any other candidates in the race. Jeff Brinkmann, however, did share one observation from the Democratic dinner they had attended a few nights before.
"The only thing I am going to say is when we went to the Democratic dinner, when Pete got on stage and said some things, Bernie's people booed," Brinkmann recalled. "No one else did that. And that's just an observation."
Then there's Sanders's radically leftist, socialist agenda.
"Yeah, he's pretty extreme," said Jared.
"If we're going to beat Trump, it needs to be a moderate," his friend Matthew, from Hollis, NH, added. "And that's Pete."
"I love Pete's values, his rules of the road, his substantive policies that are something most people can agree on," said Carolyn, from Bedford, MA. "I don't like Bernie's policies."
"I think he's almost as progressive as everyone else that's far left, but with a reasonable pragmatic, fiscally responsible approach," she continued.
"Bernie is flat. It's hard for him to gain more people beyond his typical base. And Pete is more of a unifying factor. Bernie is always going to be classic Bernie. But Pete can bring in progressives, moderates, and what we like to call future former Republicans."
ABC News's Jonathan Karl summed it up nicely.
On to Nevada and South Carolina!