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Community Report: The Lead Up To The New Hampshire Primary

A barber cuts Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet's hair with Bernie Sanders on the TV in the background.
Mary Altaffer
Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet gets a trim from barber Roland Bergeron at Granite State Barber Shop in Manchetser, N.H. Friday. Candidates and reporters are flocking to the state in the lead up to Tuesday's primary.

Each week, we check in with local newspapers around the region to hear about stories that are top-of-mind in their communities.

This week, we speak with Jake Lahut, who writes for Business Insider. Until very recently, Lahut was a reporter at the Keene Sentinelin Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics.

Ground game

With the 2020 New Hampshire Primary just 48 hours away, Lahut spoke to VPR about what he's seeing and hearing on the ground.

"Bernie's ride-or-die supporters are out in force," he said. Lahut also reported he has seen increasingly larger crowds for former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg.

As for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, LaHut said she "has been able to build a formidable ground game, kind of bit by bit."

More from VPR — 'Bernie's My Man!': On The Ground With New Hampshire Primary Voters

As he travels throughout New Hampshire, Lahut said he has noticed former Vice President Joe Biden's events "are a little more subdued. "

Lahut said Biden's camp will argue that his supporters aren't the kind who show up to such events but they do show up at the polls when it matters most.

On election security

Lahut said he attended a recent press conference where New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Secretary of State Bill Gardner touted the state's polling stations and tallying systems as being harder to hack.

Lahut reported Gardner as saying paper and pencils can't be hacked, though the reality is more complicated, as Lahut has seen at the different polling stations.

"The more populated areas certainly use paper, but they use machines to count them," he said. And, those machines can be hacked.

Gardner also told Lahut he was sure that New Hampshire's primary results would be available much sooner than at last week's Iowa Caucus, by "9:30 p.m. sharp on primary night."

More from VPR — A Late Night (And Early Morning): Iowa Caucus Results Delayed

First in the nation?

"The broader issues that are facing the primary are not the voting logistics, they're these more serious conversations about representation and demographics, and why this kind of arbitrary first-in-the-nation status came about," Lahut said. 

He said specifically moved to New Hampshire to cover its primary election as a journalist, though those kind of jobs may be in jeopardy, he added, as the Democratic party questions its process.

More from NHPR Small But Powerful, New Hampshire Grips Its Primary Spot. But Does It Matter?

"I kind of wondered ... whether I'll be one of the last people to have that experience, to have that inordinate amount of access to presidential candidates," Lahut said. 

By contrast, he said he didn't see any appetite in the Republican party to change how New Hampshire gets to vote first.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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