Impeachment? Iran? Early state voters more swayed by basics

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., waves as she is introduced at a campaign stop in Dover, N.H., Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

MANCHESTER, NH – President Donald Trump has an impeachment trial looming, and rising tensions with Iran have captured headlines. But standing in the back of a New Hampshire brewery with three varieties of IPA on tap, Janie Shaklee said the political basics are much more likely to decide her vote.

“The economy is much realer to me,” said the 69-year-old retired professor who was attending a campaign event for businessman Andrew Yang ahead of her state's Feb. 11 primary. “The world can blow apart at any point, no matter what. It's always been that way ... anything can happen.”

Less than two weeks old, 2020 has been characterized by a striking amount of political turmoil at home and abroad. But for many in the states that will soon begin choosing the Democratic presidential nominee, the same bread-and-butter issues that have long dominated the primary -- health care, higher wages, student debt, climate change -- remain top of mind.

"Many Americans, for their own mental health, have taken Trump and his presidency and put it into a box and are doing their best to believe that it's some sort of aberration that's happening during our time and still staying focused on their own family,” said Raymond Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “The unpredictability of Trump, his unhinged decision-making, he's made it very difficult and a challenge to the average voter that overwhelms them.”

That sentiment is also playing out in Iowa, home to the Feb. 3 caucuses that usher in the Democratic contest. Farah Jorgensen, a nurse from Waukee, said she doesn’t see Iran remaining an issue over the long term.

“I think it’s just going to fade off,” said Jorgensen, who was planning to back New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker before he dropped out of the race on Monday. “I don’t think the world is ready for another war.”

Andrew Feldman, a Democratic strategist in Washington, agreed that Iran in recent days, just like impeachment in recent weeks, is “still not the main focus of voters.”

“They may have an opinion on it, they may know about it, but it doesn’t one-up the challenges they’re having with health care, the challenges they’re having with hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt,” Feldman said of voters. “The issues that we think are important here in the Beltway don’t actually make it to the kitchen table as issues that voters are talking about.”