MERRIMACK, N.H. — Two days after his surprise performance in Iowa, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign held a town hall for veterans here. The event was so packed that dozens of reporters — from local TV stations and big national outlets — couldn’t get in, and a large number of voters were turned away, trudging back to their cars cold and angry.
For Buttigieg, it’s a good problem to have — an unmistakable sign of the surge of interest in his candidacy and the Iowa-fueled momentum he’s carried into New Hampshire. But the influx of curiosity and support from voters has his campaign straining to keep up.
Buttigieg’s New Hampshire operation is smaller than those of some of his presidential rivals, and his campaign has dropped just $3 million in TV ads in the state, a third of his spending on commercials in Iowa. He doesn’t claim neighbor-state status, like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Buttigieg and Sanders, who departed Iowa virtually tied for the top slot, are on track to clash again in New Hampshire, according to a slate of new polls released this week.
But the lessons for Buttigieg in Iowa — outworking his opponents with face-to-face blitz of events and focusing on Obama-Trump counties — still apply in New Hampshire, as his campaign scrambles to replicate them here.
Buttigieg’s new growth in the first primary state, captured by an 8-point boost in polling this week, includes a “whole new base of supporters” after Iowa, “and it’s a robust base for sure — but it is like a new operation and a new effort,” said Lucas Meyer, chair of the New Hampshire Young Democrats. “It’s really going to be curtains up for the first time for this campaign over the next few days. … It’s going to be sink or swim.”
The high-paced schedule kicked off early for Buttigieg, who did a round of TV hits and a town hall by Tuesday morning in New Hampshire, while some of his candidates hadn’t even left Iowa. His schedule that day was so busy that a car with his senior staff ran out of gas rushing between events. By the end of the day, Buttigieg was sporting a 5’o’clock shadow.