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NPR Political Coverage

Iowa Remains Undecided, But Campaigns Are Moving On To New Hampshire

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are neck and neck in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. After the reporting delay there, we now have 86% of results in. And though there is still no winner declared, the race for the nomination has moved on to New Hampshire, where voters will cast ballots in less than a week. NPR's Juana Summers has found that Iowa's apparent results are affecting how the candidates talk about their chances in New Hampshire.

(APPLAUSE)

JOE BIDEN: Hello, hello, hello.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: As he campaigned today in New Hampshire, Biden acknowledged that more than a thousand miles away in Iowa, things hadn't gone as he'd hoped.

BIDEN: I am not going to sugarcoat it. We took a gut punch in Iowa. The whole process took a gut punch. But look. This isn't the first time in my life I've been knocked down.

SUMMERS: Making the case that he can win has been Biden's key argument, but he fell to fourth in Iowa. New Hampshire is set to be another tight race, with two candidates who represent neighboring states in the Senate. Buttigieg's strong Iowa showing will also make him a factor here. And several lower-polling candidates have all but moved to the state.

Biden is also taking this challenge more directly to Sanders and Buttigieg. He says Sanders would drag down other Democratic candidates. And he says Buttigieg is a risky choice to lead the country.

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BIDEN: I have great respect for Mayor Pete and his service to this nation. But I do believe it's a risk - to be just straight-up with you - for this party to nominate someone who's never held a office higher than mayor of a town of a hundred thousand people in Indiana.

SUMMERS: Biden stressed that the first four states are key, not just the first one or two. He's looking elsewhere as part of his case that he's the most electable candidate.

That's something that appeals to Melanie Silvano. The Hinsdale, N.H., resident is still undecided, but she's leaning toward Biden.

MELANIE SILVANO: I think with the right running mate, he's probably the most likely candidate to defeat Donald Trump. A lot of the other candidates are struggling with support of people of color, you know? And Joe Biden seems to - because of the Obama legacy, I think, has a lot to do with that.

SUMMERS: Sanders and Buttigieg each claimed victory at separate events here this week. In Laconia, N.H., yesterday, Buttigieg was happy to claim a win, and he said that his campaign had made history.

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PETE BUTTIGIEG: And it validates for a kid somewhere in the community wondering if he belongs or she belongs or they belong in their own family that if you believe in yourself and your country, there's a lot backing up that belief.

SUMMERS: That same night, Bernie Sanders took the stage in Milford, N.H. He was introduced by his wife Jane.

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JANE SANDERS: Now it is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce my husband, my best friend, the next president of the United States, Bernie Sanders.

SUMMERS: By the time that he arrived here, he knew he'd done well in the Iowa caucuses.

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BERNIE SANDERS: Here in New Hampshire, I know they'd be able to count your votes on election night.

(APPLAUSE)

B SANDERS: And when you count those votes, I look forward to winning here in New Hampshire.

(APPLAUSE)

SUMMERS: Sanders hopes to repeat the strong victory here in New Hampshire that he had in the state's primary four years ago. His supporters were ecstatic. Jessica Clark drove in from neighboring Fitchburg, Mass. She told me this was the first campaign event she'd ever been to because no politician had ever affected her like Bernie Sanders. But she and other supporters were concerned when they heard that Sanders may have gotten the most votes but not the most delegates. Delegates determine the winner.

JESSICA CLARK: I do think that - I believe that he is in the lead but that, somehow, they're not ready to give this nomination to him.

SUMMERS: And it's not just these candidates. Many others are making a play for the state with just a few days to go until voting begins, again.

Juana Summers, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SYMMETRY'S "OVER THE EDGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.