Seven candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination took the stage Friday night, hoping to win over New Hampshire voters ahead of the February 11 primary.
It was a standout night for three candidates, in particular, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, in no particular order.
While the debate saw some candidates choose unity when given the chance to slam their opponents, there were still plenty of attacks. Candidates were also asked about foreign policy, including whether they would have ordered the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.
After a serious reporting delay at the Iowa caucuses this week and no clear frontrunner, the stakes could not be higher.
“New Hampshire typically finishes the job that Iowa starts in terms of rendering a verdict of who’s viable and who’s not,” explained Dante Scala, professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.
A Monmouth University Poll released Friday found that half of those polled – 49 percent – were firmly decided on their candidate of choice, leaving lots of room for candidates to win over undecided voters.
Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Centre, explained that the high turnout in New Hampshire primaries means it is regular voters, not activists, who determine the vote in New Hampshire.
People tend to make up their minds a few days before the vote, or on election day, Smith told Al Jazeera.
“You really can’t think there are these blocks of voters who are locked down for any candidate.”
Scala said New Hampshire voters are looking for a combination of electability and likability. For the average voter, the policy distinctions among the candidates are quite subtle, he said.
“They’re not sitting at home with a big spreadsheet in front of them that shows policy positions step by step; they’re going more on feel.”