Following former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s narrow win over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in last week’s Iowa Democratic caucuses, the two presidential candidates are duking it out in New Hampshire: Sanders slammed Buttigieg for accepting campaign contributions from billionaires, and Buttigieg said Sanders’ policies skew too far to the left.
Mother Jones digital producer Mark Helenowski caught up with Buttigieg and Sanders supporters on the trail this week to find out what pushed them to support one candidate over the other—and whether they’d vote for their candidate’s opponent. One common theme emerged, no matter what the voter’s current predilections: the need to unify the Democratic party to take on President Donald Trump in November.
Thomas Angell, a 21-year-old student and Sanders supporter, said that the senator alone had the support base to win. “To actually beat Trump, we can’t just be opposed to Trump,” he said. “We have to offer something else. He actually believes in something incredibly concrete that we can all get around.” Multiple Sanders supporters—some sporting “Bernie Beats Trump” pins—pointed out that the senator tends to perform well in polls that pit him against Trump.
But others Mother Jones spoke to, including Phillip Benkert, a 65-year-old retiree, think Sanders’ policies would do more to divide than to unify. “This country’s splitting into pieces, and you need to bring the suckers together and not go over there,” he said, gesturing to his right, “or over there,” he added, gesturing to his left.
“You’ve gotta have a centrist candidate,” Donald Marcus, a 73-year-old retired veterinarian, agreed. “I don’t see why the Democratic Party can’t figure that out.”
But to unseat the president, Democrats will have to rally around their nominee, even if he or she isn’t their first choice in the primaries. Most of the New Hampshire Democrats we spoke to said they would do just that.
“I don’t care if it’s somebody who just got out of an insane asylum,” Marcus said. “Anybody but 45.”