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Primary formally scheduled, as presidential campaigns in full swing

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner formally selected February 11 as the date for our first-in-the-nation 2020 presidential primary Monday afternoon, with a ceremony in his office to celebrate 100 years of the Granite State’s key electoral role.

The decision was “fairly easy” this time around, unlike “more tumultuous” years, when other states have threatened New Hampshire’s place in the primary lineup, Gardner said. He was joined by former state lawmaker Jim Splaine, D-Portsmouth, who authored the 1975 version of the law that requires our primary to be held at least seven days before any “similar election” elsewhere.

The announcement came after a busy weekend of on-the-ground campaigning throughout the state, as outlined in the nine updates below.

Days until the Iowa caucuses: 70

Days until the New Hampshire primary: 78

1. Bill Weld charts his path to victory

PORTSMOUTH — Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who’s vying for the Republican presidential nomination, mingled Friday evening with about 50 supporters at the Gas Light’s third-floor night club during a laid-back meet and greet.

Weld recounted his proposal to fight climate change with a carbon tax, his support for LGBT rights, his opposition to the extreme anti-abortion laws states have passed recently, and his track record of governing side-by-side with Democrats in the Bay State.

Despite polls suggesting he’s on his way to an electoral trouncing in New Hampshire, Weld also outlined what he sees as a viable path to an electoral win. “We think we’ve got a good shot at this,” he said.

The key will be to win big on Super Tuesday, which is March 3, he said, noting that he expects to carry Massachusetts and Vermont and could win in Wisconsin and California as well, perhaps others.

“If we’re at three, four, or five states coming out of March 3, we’re going to be taken seriously going into the convention,” Weld said. “I’m not even mentioning or thinking about what might happen in Washington with all the maelstrom down there.”

That maelstrom is more commonly known as the impeachment proceedings against Weld’s opponent. Those proceedings could feasibly unearth hard facts that President Donald Trump and his boosters won’t be able to countervail, Weld told WMUR’s Adam Sexton.

If impeachment were to lead to Trump’s removal from office and Vice President Mike Pence were to ascend to the presidency after Super Tuesday, it would be too late for Pence to get his name onto the ballot in the remaining states’ Republican primaries, Weld told his supporters in Portsmouth.

“There’ll be only one guy on the ballot in those states, and that would be myself,” he said to applause.

“There’s a lot of stars in alignment for our progress here,” he added.

Zach Balomenos of Arundel, Maine, who left the Portsmouth event with a Weld 2020 yard sign, said he voted for Weld in 2016 and plans to do so again in 2020. When asked whether Weld’s purported path to victory is a likely scenario, Balomenos said, well, it’s plausible.

“As he said, if the stars align and the things happen that need to happen, especially in Washington with the impeachment inquiry right now, it’s plausible,” Balomenos said.

2. Candidate touts income tax reform

One of the other 16 candidates running in New Hampshire’s GOP presidential primary was in Portsmouth this weekend, too, touting a proposal that could resonate with income-tax-spurning Granite Staters.

Lawyer and philanthropist Matt Matern said one of his campaign’s main priorities is removing the federal income tax for households that earn less than $100,000 per year, as Alex Dowd reported for Seacoast Media Group.

3. Cory Booker: Dems need Black voters

PORTSMOUTH — During an appearance Friday night at Portsmouth Brewery, presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey emphasized a particular demographic as indispensable but often overlooked members of the Democratic base: Black voters.

“The leader we need in the Democratic party is the one that can best awaken the energy, the excitement, and the enthusiasm of the full coalition,” Booker said. “I was happy to see people talk about minority voters because I watched what happened in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania last election. We lost those three states combined by 77,000 votes.”

Democrats lost those states because they failed to win the support of Black voters, who showed up at the polls in record numbers in 2012 but not in 2016, Booker said.

“We need a candidate that can electrify the fullness of our coalition in this race, and if you can’t, you should get off the stage and make way for people that can,” he added.

The crowd of about 150 supporters cheered as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the brewery’s modest side dining room throughout the hour-long talk.

Booker’s comments come as South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has risen in early-state polling to become a top-tier candidate in the Democratic presidential race despite his apparent lack of support in Black communities—but Booker refrained from calling out any Democrat by name.

“I am not going to try and claw my way to the nomination by tearing down my fellow Democrats because that ruins us as a party,” he said.

For more on how Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris of California have warned their white co-partisans about the dangers of neglecting Black communities, be sure to read Russel Berman’s article last week in The Atlantic.

4. Tulsi Gabbard cancels 4 events

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii had been scheduled to attend four events Friday and Saturday: a house party in Jaffrey, a house party in Gilford, a meet and greet in Rochester, and a town hall in Concord, according to events listed on her website Thursday. But all four were either canceled or postponed. (The meet and greet in Rochester is now scheduled for this Wednesday evening.)

The decision to call off Gabbard’s Jaffrey appearance was made due to an illness, as Jake Lahut reported for The Keene Sentinel, citing a Facebook post by the campaign.

Gabbard’s campaign didn’t respond to Granite Memo’s questions about the cancellations.

5. Amy Klobuchar talks impeachment

During an appearance Friday at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota seemed circumspect when discussing the impeaching proceedings but focused her criticism on President Trump, as Andrew Sylvia reported for the New Hampshire Union Leader:

“In the end, this is about a President who puts private interests before public interests,” Klobuchar said. “You can debate what they think should happen here, that’s okay, but you can’t take away from those people who testified, because every day they go to work regardless of who the President is and they go to work because they believe in our country.”

Klobuchar criticized what she views as unrealistic policy proposals from some of her fellow candidates, including proposals related to health care and higher education, as the Union Leader reported.

Despite her past reticence to let her campaign focus on her status as a woman, Klobuchar has been talking more directly about the intersection of gender and politics, as Sara Burnett reported for the Associated Press.

6. Bennet likens himself to John McCain

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado told WMUR’s Siobhan Lopez that he plans to win New Hampshire’s Democratic primary the way the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona won the Republican presidential primary in 2000.

“He was given up for dead. He was dead last in the polls, which I'm not, but he was, and he just put one foot in front of the other,” Bennet said.

Bennet was the top pick for no more than 1% of likely Democratic primary voters in four recent New Hampshire polls (Saint Anselm College, CBS News/YouGov, Quinnipiac, UNH).

7. Elizabeth Warren has a cold

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts carried on with her New Hampshire events over the weekend despite fighting off the symptoms of a cold, which she blamed on “one hug too many,” as Laura Crimaldi reported for The Boston Globe.

When asked about reports that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had made a TV ad buy worth more than $30 million, Warren expressed disapproval.

“I understand that rich people are going to have more shoes than the rest of us, they’re going to have more cars than the rest of us. They’re going to have more houses. But they don’t get a bigger share of democracy,” she said, as the Globe reported.

The exchange comes after the Globe’s Matt Stout characterized Bloomberg’s entry into the Democratic presidential race as potentially offering Warren a new foil.

8. Sanders brings along Justin Long

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont brought actor Justin Long with him to weekend campaign stops in New Hampshire, including a speech Sunday night at South Church in Portsmouth, as Karen Dandurant reported for Seacoast Media Group.

“When I see Bernie, I see someone who wants to right wrongs, wants to fight for us. I am honored to be here in the fight with him,” Long said.

Sanders used the speech to call for “a political revolution,” reciting a list of his proposals, including publicly funded elections, Medicare-for-All, a $15-per-hour minimum wage, tuition-free college, canceling student debt, immigration reform, and universal background checks for firearms purchases.

A planned appearance by Susan Sarandon was nixed after the actor slipped and broke her nose, suffering a concussion, according to a post on her Instagram account.

Don’t miss this Associated Press report by Hunter Woodall and Will Weissert on how New Hampshire’s primary could be the ultimate test of whether the popularity Sanders enjoyed in 2016 is still around.

9. Deval Patrick at Politics & Eggs

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who hopped into the Democratic primary just this month, spoke at a “Politics & Eggs” event Monday morning at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Patrick took his time at the podium to talk about the crisis at the Mexican border, mental health, and what he would prioritize as president, as Karla Rendon-Alvarez reported for NBC Boston.

About 200 people attended the event, including many “members of the Massachusetts political class” who worked closely with Patrick during his gubernatorial tenure, as Stephanie Murray and Trent Spiner reported for Politico.