Sanders, once again, spent his primary eve hosting what felt like Berniechella on New Hampshire's largest college campus. Accompanied by The Strokes and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — some of the buzziest headliners who have visited New Hampshire voters so far — Sanders lit up a 7,500 person stadium in hopes of turning out those young voters all over again.
For all of the Barack Obama comparisons that millennial former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his “hope and change” tone invokes, it’s the 78-year-old independent who is likeliest to deliver a key part of the Obama coalition today.
Young voters can be the decisive factor in an election that will likely be won by a razor-thin margin, and polls show Sanders has captured the largest share of their projected votes in New Hampshire. What happens tonight will be instructive of Sanders's ability to deliver on big promises for turnout — and his campaign hopes it will be decisive enough to prove it has a winning strategy to beat President Trump if he's the nominee.
- “Young voters will not only be the difference maker in New Hampshire — it is a difference maker everywhere we go, and it is the difference maker of whether we defeat Donald Trump,” Sanders's campaign manager Faiz Shakir told Power Up last night. “Part of the appeal of this campaign is that we think we are in the strongest position to defeat Trump because we can expand turnout in a way that few other Democratic candidates can do. One of the key reasons we can do that is because the young person turnout should be very strong for Bernie.”
- “If you go back to 2008, when Obama won and people were worried about whether he was going to hurt the Democrats down ballot, he ended up winning states like North Carolina. If you look at the demographics of why he won, it’s because young people showed up. So that is the case for the Bernie campaign and as you look around, I feel like we are on a path,” Shakir told us.
- The big question: “The question is [today] will they go and vote and hopefully we’ve done everything we can in our power to convince them to do that,” he added.
On the ground: The excitement for Sanders and his army of buzzy influencers and surrogates on Monday evening was as palpable as the existential angst that many young voters in the state have expressed over the course of the primary. They're alarmed by the dire scientific warnings on climate change, disproportionately saddled with student loan debt and fear they won't be able to afford health care. Sanders’s campaign platform sings to these concerns.
- “New Hampshire specifically is one of those states that is seriously feeling climate change already,” Michael Pearson, the president of the New Hampshire College Democrats and executive director of the Dartmouth Democrats, told Power Up. “There are tangible things that Granite Staters feel. And health care wise, this is a state that has felt the full effects of opioid crisis and been left out to dry.”
- “Climate change is a huge issue for me and a lot of young voters I talk to because nothing else really matters if we don't have a planet to live on,” said Emily Thorsen, 20, a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire and Sanders supporter.
- “The reason they’re even talking about Medicare for all … the reason they are even talking about a Green New Deal is because Bernie has made it impossible for them not to,” former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon told the crowd at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
- “You can galvanize people pretty easily around hate — it is hard to stand up and fight for someone you don’t know when it is not the popular thing to do and he has done it his whole damn life,” Ocasio-Cortez said of Sanders's commitment to the issues, eliciting huge applause.
- The issues young people care about are the top issues generally for Democratic voters in New Hampshire: “I think that New Hampshire in general is looking at issues the same way young people are because right now a lot of people in New Hampshire are fighting day-to-day and looking for a hand,” Pearson added.
By the numbers: Sixty-four percent of voters between the ages of 18 to 34 say they will definitely vote in the primary today, according to a CNN New Hampshire primary poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire released Sunday. Sanders is the preferred candidate for 44% of those young voters. Buttigieg, seeking to position himself as Sanders's chief rival after a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, comes in second among young people (18 percent) followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (16 percent).
They're battling for the remainder the state's powerful youth voting bloc:
- “While the youth vote was never in question in 2016 — it is now. Bernie has half — but who wins the other half could be decisive,” John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics, said in yesterday's edition of Power Up.
- “A large part of Buttigieg's success in the last week is that he has replaced Warren as No. 2 with young voters — this is key as his vote, unlike Biden and Bernie’s, transcends generation.”
In theory, Buttigieg's fresh face might seem like the natural choice for young voters. At age 38, he'd be the youngest president in U.S. history while Sanders would be the oldest. However, Buttigieg's more pragmatic approach — and emphasis on tone and unity — appeals more to boomers than to the under 35 set, and he's struggled with nonwhite voters. Some young voters say they remain skeptical of the candidate who accepts corporate donations and does not embrace the liberal policies that have galvanized the base.
- “Young people want somebody who speaks to their issues authentically and speaks to their issues very seriously,” Pearson, a senior at Dartmouth, explained. Young people, when they graduate into the workforce, “are not sure if they’re going to be able to pay their rent, for example. So there is some questioning among young people that maybe unity is not one of their top issues — simple survival is.”
- “Pete is just collecting a lot of revenue from corporations and billionaires and that’s not reflective of general population and young people,” Thorsen added.
To be sure, young voters are historically unreliable in actually turning out. But the activists flooding college campuses and towns around the state are looking to the 2018 midterm elections, where turnout among young voters sharply spiked and helped deliver the House to Democrats, as a positive sign. Several of the youth and college organizing groups Power Up spoke with this week also expect to achieve record setting turnout this time around.
- “We plan on breaking the Hanover record,” Pearson told us of young voters enrolled at Dartmouth College. “We plan on breaking the record for a primary which is just over 4,000 voters.”
- “11,000 college students across New Hampshire have pledged to vote with us since September,” said Josie Pinto, the director of the New Hampshire Youth Movement, adding that they are striving to increase youth turnout by 5% since 2016.
- Sanders and his surrogates hammered the young crowd on the importance of turning out tomorrow: “We need to do everything we can to expand the electorate and transform our democracy … it’s going to take mass movement politics to do it. That’s the theory of change. That’s what the political revolution is all about,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
- Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicts a turnout of 420,000 voters — “a record for a primary in which an incumbent president is running on one side or the other.” That's scaled back from Gardner's estimate last week of 500,000.
There are some concerns that youth turnout might be depressed due to confusion over a controversial new voting law, House Bill 1264, that “redefined the state’s residency standards,” according to NHPR’s Casey McDermott. Voting rights advocates have likened the law, which is being challenged by the ACLU, to a “poll tax” on young voters in the state. And it’s still unclear what the law actually accomplishes — other than sowing confusion, according to Dartmouth political science professor Mia Costa.
- “New laws in the state have tightened the residency requirements for voting which has caused some confusion regarding whether college students can vote — they can!” Costa said. “If these misinterpretations are happening at a large scale among college students or election workers, then that might drive down youth turnout.”
At The White House
TRUMP’S BUDGET WOULD SLASH MAJOR PROGRAMS: The White House proposed a $4.8 trillion budget that aims to “slash major domestic and safety-net programs,” our colleagues Jeff Stein and Erica Werner report.
- Remember this is just a proposal: Trump’s budgets were viewed as dead on arrival even when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress --- a reality most presidents face. What the budget does tell us is Trump’s vision going forward, including for a potential second term.
And a more detailed breakdown:
Here's what's out:
Deficit elimination in a decade: Though this has been a longtime GOP talking point, the president’s budget would now accomplish this by 2035. "But it would only achieve this if the economy grows at an unprecedented, sustained 3 percent clip through 2025, levels the administration has failed to achieve for even one year so far," Jeff and Erica note.
Trump's promise to not touch Medicare: The budget “aims to cut spending on safety-net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, slashing spending on the latter by $181 billion over a decade,” our colleagues write. “It proposes to squeeze hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare over a decade through cost-saving proposals such as reforming medical liability and modifying payments to hospitals for uncompensated care.”
- The White House disputes this is a cut: Officials note the budget “reflects a decrease in the rate at which spending would grow rather than a reduction from current spending levels,” our colleagues write, noting liberal economists rejected that explanation.
And here's what's in:
- Extended tax cuts: "As part of the new budget plan, the White House would seek to make permanent parts of the 2017 tax cut that are set to expire after 2025. The budget says extending these tax cuts through the end of the decade would amount to a $1.4 trillion tax cut."
- Funding for certain programs after past pushback: Those “include the Special Olympics and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — a program important to Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, critical states in the presidential election,” our colleagues write. “Even as White House officials kept the Great Lakes fund steady, as they did for an ecosystem protection program in South Florida, similar programs in other, less politically important states are cut in the Trump budget.”
- Most aid for Ukraine: Just after Trump’s acquittal, the White House confirmed previous reporting that it would preserve State and Defense Department aid for Ukraine. There is a proposed $17 million cut to a State Department anti-corruption program.
From the Courts
TRUMP SLAMS HIS OWN DOJ'S REQUEST FOR STONE SENTENCE: The president called federal prosecutors' recommendation that Trump's confidant Roger Stone serve up to nine years in prison a “horrible and very unfair situation” in a late-night tweet.
Our colleagues Spencer S. Hsu, Ann E. Marimow and Devlin Barrett reported that there was internal debate at the Justice Department. Ultimately they decided Stone deserved a sentence of "seven to nine years in prison for lying to Congress and tampering with a witness related to his efforts to learn about hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election."
A divided Justice Department: “Front-line prosecutors, some previously with [former special counsel Robert] Mueller’s team, argued for a sentence on the higher end for Stone than some of their supervisors were comfortable with, according to two people familiar with the discussions,” our colleagues write. “A recommendation on the higher end prevailed, with prosecutors’ filings citing federal sentencing guidelines that ratchet up in cases involving obstruction that impedes the administration of justice.”
- Such debates are not uncommon: “Disagreements among prosecutors about sentencing recommendations are not uncommon, especially when it comes to politically sensitive high-profile cases. It would have been unusual, however, for the U.S. attorney’s office to endorse a sentence below the guideline range after winning conviction at trial, according to former federal prosecutors.”
Stone's defense wants no jail time: They asked for probation, our colleagues write, “citing his age, 67, and lack of criminal history. They also noted that of seven Mueller defendants who have been sentenced, only one faces more than a six-month term: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is serving 7½ years."
Outside the Beltway
TROLLING THE DEMS: “Trump’s campaign argues that the draw of Air Force One, a stable of Cabinet officials and White House aides, and a president known for lively rallies combine to boost Trump’s supporters and deflate his detractors in key states where Democrats are trying to build momentum,” our colleagues Robert Costa, Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey report of the president's rallies in early states right before Democrats head to the polls.
The president was in New Hampshire last night: The state holds a special place for the MAGA crowd in addition to allowing another opportunity to troll Democrats. Trump’s “his narrow 0.4-point loss in New Hampshire has made the state a top target for Trump campaign officials looking for ways to expand the electoral map,” our colleagues write.
I-O-WILL THIS EVER END?: "[Sanders's] and [Buttigieg's] presidential campaigns separately asked for partial audits of the state's caucus results, with each banking that a recanvass would tilt the race in their favor," the Des Moines Register's Nick Coltrain and Barbara Rodriguez report.
The Iowa Democratic chairman confirmed that some rounding errors may never be fixed: Troy Price told reporters that the state party can only address errors resulting in what was reported by the party versus what each of the more than 1,700 precincts reported.
- Why this matters: Enterprising Twitter users and journalists have flagged problems with some of the initial math that in turn generates the numbers the precinct reports to the state party. But even if this math is truly faulty, there's nothing that can be done. Price said the worksheets that contain the math are legal documents and cannot be altered in any sort of review. So for now, if incorrect results were generated by faulty math, that's just the way it is.
- We could know more later this week: The state party's central committee meets on Thursday. The Register reports that members want to discuss all of the chaos and some have already called for Price to recuse himself from the larger review into what transpired or resign entirely. "Our leaders failed and, whether intentional or not, are placing the blame on those who carried out this process — us," Dickinson County chairman Brett Copeland wrote in a Facebook post over the weekend calling on Price and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez to resign.