MANCHESTER/BEDFORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Just hours after the last voters walked away from Iowa’s caucuses, the center of the reshaped 2016 presidential race shifted to New Hampshire, where candidates were already addressing voters before dawn Tuesday.
The first-in-the-nation primary, held on next Tuesday this year, often contradicts the preferences of Iowans, rewarding moderate politicians who invest time in the state. For many candidates, the sprint will include three or four events daily in school gymnasiums, town halls or Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, each of which might feature an hour of taking questions from a potentially hostile public.
“The best eight days in American politics,” said Tom Rath, the state’s former attorney general and an adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose presidential hopes are so tightly pinned to the state that he didn’t even leave for the Iowa caucuses.
Monday’s results, which were kind to outsiders who have challenged parties’ settled assumptions, set fresh challenges before the candidates.
Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state who won Iowa with a margin of less than half a percentage point, must persuade the 41 percent of state Democrats who were undecided in a recent University of New Hampshire poll. In the meantime, Sen. Bernie Sanders of neighboring Vermont leads the polls with his pitch of democratic socialism.
Brian Fallon, Clinton’s national press secretary, told reporters aboard her press plane in Des Moines that the new terrain favors her “ability to generate enthusiasm and organize, drive turnout.”
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a firebrand from Texas who defied polls to win Monday with massive evangelical turnout, now confronts a more secular electorate. Cruz will face Donald Trump, the billionaire and New Hampshire poll leader who finished second in Iowa.
Trump, whose brand is based on the idea of winning, must sell himself as a runner-up. He swiftly began damage control on Twitter, his primary mode of communication: “The media has not covered my long-shot great finish in Iowa fairly. Brought in record voters and got second highest vote total in history!”
Marco Rubio, the Florida senator whose third-place finish may position him as the best alternative to the outsiders, will seek to consolidate support of those who seek a more traditional candidate, draining support from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kasich.
In recent days, even candidates who have preached civility and a commitment to discussing issues have begun targeting one another.
Christie, who won 2 percent support in Iowa, said Tuesday at his Bedford, New Hampshire, campaign headquarters that Rubio had been sheltered from reporters’ questions — the “boy in the bubble.”
“This isn’t a student council election; this is an election for president of the United States,” Christie told reporters.
The time for policy speeches is over, he told about 100 supporters. Now comes the “blocking and tackling of politics.”
Christie has said his path to victory also requires him to knock Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush out of the race.
The Sanders campaign has 108 paid staffers spread across 18 offices, New Hampshire spokesman Karthik Ganapathy said Tuesday. “I’m sure we’ll amp up our presence in a number of different ways, but I think in the last week here our focus is primarily on making sure our supporters get out to vote,” Ganapathy said.
Robocalls, mailers, yard signs and radio and television ads have been facts of life for months in New Hampshire. Now the candidates will descend as well.
“You’ll be just going about your day and — boom! — there will be a presidential candidate right there in front of you,” said Tara Bishop, a freelance marketing consultant from Manchester.
Before Tuesday’s rush of campaign staffers and reporters, parking spots were easy to find in downtown Manchester. At Campo Enoteca, an Italian restaurant on Elm Street, owner Edward Aloise said Monday would be the last quiet lunch hour he will see in a week. “The circus doesn’t really start until tomorrow afternoon,” he said. “Then look out.”
Moe’s Italian Sandwiches, also on Elm, is doubling its staff and extending workers’ hours to serve the campaign staffers arriving to join those who have been stuffed into volunteers’ homes for months, as well as hundreds of journalists from all over the world.
“It’s not disruptive,” said Lan Ciesluk, a retired business manager in Merrimack. “It’s entertaining, if anything.”
Like Iowa, New Hampshire is economically robust, weathering the post-recession era better than many states. Its seasonally adjusted jobless rate in December was 3.1 percent, the fourth-lowest in the U.S.
The mountainous state is wealthier and whiter than the U.S. as a whole. According to the Census Bureau, 94 percent of its 1.3 million people are white, compared with 77.4 percent nationally. The median household income of $64,916 is 22 percent above the national figure.
The state isn’t immune from the 2016 fervor for outsiders. Trump leads by more than 20 points on the poll-aggregating site RealClearPolitics. On the Democratic side, Sanders leads by 18 points, suggesting voters may be poised to hand him an unusual win for a non-moderate.
The state, which boasts the motto “Live Free or Die,” listens to candidates’ stances on national and international issues, but presidential hopefuls’ personalities matter too. John McCain, the Arizona senator who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, won the state twice while touring on his “Straight Talk Express” bus. His stripped-down campaign was one of several victorious efforts that proved that campaigns can generate big momentum by impressing voters in the state even if they can’t boast strong fundraising.
New Hampshirites relish and dread in almost equal measure the attention that such a competitive race brings.
“The day after the primary, everything will be gone,” said Ciesluk. “No more phone calls. No more events. It’ll just be winter.”