MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — The battle for momentum in New Hampshire, for at least one night, came down to how expressive fans in the cheap seats could be.
Democrats made an effort to project an aura of unity at a party dinner Saturday designed to pump up the party base and each campaign’s core supporters three days ahead of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
But there was little love between supporters of Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, the leading delegate winners in Iowa’s caucuses. One side stared down the other as their candidates tried to build off the momentum delivered to them by results that remained muddled.
Buttigieg, who spoke first before the dinner crowd of thousands of Democrats, encountered loud chants of “Wall Street Pete” and “Medicare for All” from Sanders supporters making their presence known with blinking pink “Bernie” signs. Buttigieg’s supporters, in yellow T-shirts and armed with noisemakers, began loud chants of “Boot-Edge-Edge” and waved blue and yellow signs as Sanders declared victory in the Iowa, citing the popular vote.
The Associated Press has not called a winner in the contest, but Buttigieg and Sanders were leading, and both have taken on strength in recent days.
Flashing signs, noisemakers and color-coordinated outfits filled the hockey arena hosting the event, with Elizabeth Warren’s and Buttigieg’s campaigns packing in the most supporters. Sanders’ contingent, while smaller, made its presence known early on by chanting repeatedly over Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the state’s senior elected official, as she spoke.
Beyond their barbs at Buttigieg, Sanders’ supporters were quiet or applauding during most other candidates’ remarks. Amy Klobuchar even played along during her remarks, turning to the Sanders section and saying, “Hi, Bernie people!”
When Sanders took the stage, he acknowledged his supporters directly. “I see more enthusiasm over here than over there,” he said, gesturing to his supporters over Warren’s.
Joe Biden, meanwhile, had a tiny contingent by comparison that was buttressed on either side by Warren supporters. A campaign spokeswoman said the campaign made a strategic decision to keep its supporters out knocking on doors rather than attending the dinner.
Tickets to the event started at $20, and the level of support for each candidate either demonstrated how much a campaign was willing to spend to get its supporters in place, or how much grassroots energy existed. Many people in the audience were from out of state.
Klobuchar’s supporters wore bright green T-shirts and held giant, light-up letters saying “Win Big,” a nod to her refrain that she’s won with strength in her home state of Minnesota. Klobuchar drew large cheers from the crowd as she reprised her closing argument from Friday night’s debate that she understands and will fight for all voters.
Warren similarly fired up her supporters, though she largely stuck to her stump speech.
The campaigns of Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bennet and Tom Steyer had far smaller contingents.
After Sanders spoke, many people from the major campaigns left the arena before former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick spoke. His campaign, despite being considered a long shot, made its presence with supporters in bright blue hats, and the crowd that remained gave enthusiastic applause.
When Bennet finally took the stage, he quipped, “Thank you for hanging around.”