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Why This Progressive Says She's Backing Biden In New Hampshire


Democrats have just begun to cast their votes for who they think can take on President Trump in November. Coming up is New Hampshire, then on across the country. But where there was once a feeling of celebration at the wealth of nominees, there is now anxiety among some. No clear front-runner has emerged, even as the nominees have been winnowed down.

Joining me now is Martha Fuller Clark. She's a state senator from Portsmouth, N.H. And she's just announced a surprising endorsement which may illuminate some of the tough calculations Democrats are making.

Welcome to the program.

MARTHA FULLER CLARK: Why, thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In 2016, you endorsed Bernie Sanders. He represents the progressive wing of the party. But now you are backing Joe Biden, who certainly does not. Why?

FULLER CLARK: It's a very different election in 2020. And I think the one significant question that we as Democrats have to ask over and over again - which Democrat is best placed to beat Donald Trump? That's why I am supporting Biden.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why did you turn away from Sanders this time?

FULLER CLARK: Well, I think that Bernie deserves a lot of credit for having changed the conversation in terms of policy within the Democratic Party. That was very strong in 2016. But what he's promising - is it really realistic to be able to achieve those goals under his administration and his leadership? I don't think that that's viable in this country at this time from what I see and what I understand.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. If you're going to pick a moderate, though, why not an Amy Klobuchar or a Pete Buttigieg?

FULLER CLARK: I think they don't have the same level of experience as Joe Biden, and they certainly don't have the credentials with regard to foreign affairs and international policies, which are so key and at great risk with our current president. So I also think that Joe Biden is very well-liked. He's very compassionate. He has great integrity. He's trusted by voters from all different political directions. That's really important if we're going to be able to win in November.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think what I'm hearing you say is that for you - and I will say for probably many other Democrats - your personal policy preferences are sort of being left to the side. And what is more important is what the general electorate might go for - this idea of electability - not what you might want, but maybe what the country might go for.

FULLER CLARK: Right. And I think the country is looking for a president who is going to be able to bring us all together, regardless of our backgrounds.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But polls show that for Democrats in New Hampshire, the most important thing is not policies. It is, as you say, beating Trump. But people have very different opinions on what's needed. And do you think that's why Democrats are so fractured right now? - because each candidate has some weaknesses when you look at that equation.

FULLER CLARK: Right. There is no perfect candidate. What we're seeing over and over again is there still is a high number of undecided voters. It may be one reason why the turnout was less than had been predicted in Iowa. I think on another level that voters are exhausted by the trauma of Washington.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you're in the room with other Democrats, I imagine the debates must be pretty heated. People have their preferences. What does it sound and look like? I mean, are you worried about...

FULLER CLARK: Well, I think...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...The unity of the party?

FULLER CLARK: No. I think everybody is unified on the issue that we cannot allow Trump a second term and that everybody is going to come together at the end of the primary with whoever the candidate is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We will have to wait and see. That is New Hampshire state Senator Martha Fuller Clark.

Thank you very much.

FULLER CLARK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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