On the stump

Aaron Lipsky

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., addresses an audience of hundreds of people gathered at The Colonial Theatre in Keene Feb. 4. Warren was seen as having among the best “ground games” in New Hampshire, but finished a relatively weak fourth in this past week’s Democratic primary.

Elizabeth Warren’s camp had, as they say in campaign lingo, one of the best New Hampshire ground games in the business.

By October, the Massachusetts senator’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination had opened 10 field offices in the Granite State. This was tied with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and second only to former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who had 13.

The same month, Warren surged to the top of state and national polls, and her fundraising and crowd sizes grew accordingly.

But when Tuesday’s primary results came in, Warren had placed a distant fourth, earning only 9.2 percent of the tallied votes, behind Sanders, with 25.6 percent, Buttigieg, with 24.2 percent and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who rose in the polls in the week before the primary and finished at 19.7 percent.

In the Iowa Caucuses, Warren fared much better than she did in the Granite State. She placed third, after Buttigieg and Sanders, and took home 18 percent of the final votes.

“My husband and I are both Warren supporters. I was a little surprised and somewhat indignant at the sudden spate of Klobuchar signs everywhere. I’m still a little surprised that she did as well as she did,” said Keene resident Brenda Dunn, 73.

“Our reaction is despondent, but we’re not giving up,” said Dunn, a former high school English teacher.

Ten other Warren supporters and campaign volunteers in the Monadnock Region expressed similar disappointment about Warren’s seemingly quick slide and poor finish in New Hampshire.

“I was very disappointed by the results, but I can understand since I was at the debate and she was somewhat tin-eared,” said Harrisville resident and Warren supporter Lawrence Haddock, 56, whose grandmother was famed activist Doris “Granny D” Haddock.

Warren’s sub-par performance at the debate in Manchester, held just five days before the election, coupled with Klobuchar’s strong showing tipped the scales in the Minnesota senator’s favor, Haddock said — especially since many voters had not heard Klobuchar’s pitch as many times as Warren’s and were taking a fresh look at her candidacy.

“I was surprised at how much benefit Klobuchar got from the debate,” Haddock added.

Alstead resident Jim Gruber, a professor of environmental studies at Antioch University New England, said he believes Warren’s fall from the top of the pack began when she released her $20.5 trillion plan for “Medicare for All” in November. The government-run health insurance program would be paid for with huge tax increases on the wealthy and businesses.

“When they asked her for a budget for health care, she gave them the numbers, and they turned on her,” said Gruber, 69, adding, “the wealth tax freaked out people with a lot of resources who control a lot of things.”

Fellow Warren supporter Mohammad Saleh, 47, offered a similar assessment.

“Warren showed wisdom by actually presenting a detailed plan and how things are accounted for. People would have expected that would make sense, but then people started saying it is too much,” said Saleh, who works as a physicist and lives in Keene.

Saleh also said Warren’s pivot in the final weeks of the primary toward an appeal to independent and Republican voters was a mistake.

“A significant part of the population thinks we don’t want to take any risk in going toward a progressive agenda because we may lose the election. But if we go half-hearted, we will lose,” Saleh said. “If we want to win, we have to do a full progressive agenda and cannot hold back.”

Going forward, Warren should lean in to her progressive agenda, not try to appease moderates, Saleh said.

“It will be a challenge but she still has a path forward if she’s more forceful in her progressive point,” he said.

Sanders’ popularity among students also weakened the potential support for Warren, according to several Keene State College students.

In a crowded field, 51 percent of youth support went to Sanders, according to analysis released by researchers at Tufts University Wednesday.

“I think Warren and Bernie are both very similar, and at the end of the day, he had support in 2016 among voters and especially young voters, and that’s what helped him,” said Erin McNemar, a senior at Keene State and intern with the Warren campaign.

“I’m obviously disappointed about the results because I’ve worked hard, but I feel hopeful about the future,” McNemar said. “I don’t think she’s finished yet.”