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Bernie Sanders Appears Poised To Defeat Hillary Clinton In New Hampshire


New Hampshire has been known as Clinton Country since 1992. That's when Bill Clinton finished second in the state's Democratic primary and became known as the comeback kid. It 2008, Hillary Clinton pulled off her own come-from-behind win in New Hampshire, but the story could change tonight with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders posing a challenge to Hillary Clinton that she may not be able to overcome.

Joining us now from Manchester, N.H. - NPR's Tamara Keith, who's been coving the Clinton campaign, and Ailsa Chang, who has been following Sanders. Ailsa, let's start with you. What's the mood been like among the Sanders supporters you've spoken with at his events lately?

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: Well, there's just this really incredible anticipation of a big win tonight. And the mood is always the same at Sanders events. It's exuberant. It's loud. It's energetic. I mean, Bernie's always angry, but his supporters are always joyful. And that stark contrast is the recurring theme of every Bernie even you will go to. Like, last night, there was a big rock concert at the University of New Hampshire - about, like, 1,500 20-something-year-olds. It was just this big party. And then Sanders gets up, hardly smiles, talks about enough is enough. The government belongs to all the people. He's mad, and everyone else is just cheering (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Well, Tam, compare that to Hillary Clinton's recent events. Do you get the same feeling there?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: There - the - exuberance is not the word I would use, especially last night. She had her last rally before the big voting begins, and it was just such a stark contrast with the rally that she held the night before the Iowa caucuses. That night, she had some of her best friends from high school there. Her campaign staff, campaign manager was walking around at the back of the room, talking to reporters, saying that they really felt good about this. They felt like they could win. There is really none of that. Last night, there were no notables walking around in the back of the room, and the - it just didn't have that same exuberant feel.

SHAPIRO: You know, a lot of pundits have been predicting that Clinton will lose to Sanders tonight. It sounds like Clinton (laughter) may be anticipating losing to Sanders tonight whether or not that's what her campaign says. If that is what happens, what's her next move?

KEITH: Well - and let me say, I spoke to one of her campaign officials today, and he said that they're, you know, hoping to cut into Sanders' lead. He didn't say anything about winning.

SHAPIRO: All right.

KEITH: So there you go. The chances are not good for Hillary Clinton to win this. I think that her campaign is looking forward to the next states on the calendar - Nevada, South Carolina. They've already announced events both of those places, and what they're looking forward to is getting away from these overwhelmingly white states that are the first to vote and going to states where there's more diversity, where there are African-Americans and Latinos, where traditionally, Hillary Clinton has performed better, she has a strong connection. And they feel that the issues that she talks about will resonate with those voters.

SHAPIRO: OK, so Ailsa, if those states tend to favor Clinton, how important does that make New Hampshire tonight for Bernie Sanders.

CHANG: Very, very important. I mean, a big, decisive margin - a victory tonight could mean more media coverage for him. It could mean more voters actually taking him seriously and therefore more of these individual donations. This is a guy who's received contributions from more individuals than any other campaign thus far, and they want to keep it that way. That's one of the biggest needs.

SHAPIRO: I think I've heard him mention that once or twice on the campaign trail.

CHANG: (Laughter) Yeah, maybe once or twice. But what Tam is saying is actually - is absolutely right. He needs that momentum heading into Nevada and South Carolina because the big challenge for him in those states is going to be demographics. Clinton has more support among black and Hispanic voters. So far in Iowa and New Hampshire, he's been making his case to predominantly white voters. And so he'll need to work on name recognition going into those other two states.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Ailsa Chang and Tamara Keith in New Hampshire. Elsewhere in the program, we will check in on the Republican race, and of course, we will have ongoing coverage all night long of the New Hampshire primaries. Thanks to both of you.

CHANG: You're welcome.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
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