Former Vice President Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden was one of 19 presidential candidates who spoke Saturday at the Democratic Party State Convention in Manchester. Biden and the other nine top qualifying candidates will debate tonight (Thursday) in Houston.

New Hampshire activists say they’re hoping the 10 candidates in the third Democratic presidential debate tonight (Thursday) can hang onto the party unity stressed at last weekend’s state convention.

“I am hoping to see them all produce their own strengths, but not attack another Democrat,” said Pat Pustell, chair of the Greater Ossipee Democrats. “Show me what you’ve got; don’t knock somebody else down.”

Taking the stage at 8 p.m. in Houston will be former Vice President Joe Biden; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; South Bend, Ind.,Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and businessman Andrew Yang.

Pustell said she wants to hear the candidates talk about climate change, gun violence, and health care. And she wants to hear from all the candidates, not just the front-runners — she will be interested to see if the moderators make an effort to include all 10 candidates, or if the front-runners will get more speaking time.

Pustell said she has yet to choose a candidate.

“Our shining star has not appeared yet,” she said.

Colin Mason, an O’ Rourke supporter from Nashua, said he is also looking for a leader. He wants someone who will inspire, not just win the election, he said.

“We really need a leader who can unite people, who can electrify the imagination,” he said.

With so many candidates in the debate, he said, “It’s hard for any candidate to emerge with any other format than the viral moment.”

Michael Atkins, a Klobuchar supporter, is more skeptical of the power of the viral moment.

“A viral moment is just that; it’s a moment,” he said.

He will be watching to see if the debate moderators ask the candidates not just about their plans, but about their track records and accomplishments.

Atkins and Reeves both want to hear more about climate change, even after the televised “climate forums” last month.

Terry Reeves of Peterborough will be cheering for Buttigieg. She’s hoping to see more of what she likes about Buttigieg in the debate — and does not want to see him go on the attack.

“He has a very calm manner. He makes me feel incredibly safe,” Reeves said. “I’d like to see just more of the same when he interacts with the other candidates.”

Reeves wants to hear bold proposals and some sense of hope from all the candidates, especially on the issue of climate change.

Helen Honorow has watched all the debates, she said.

“I’m glued to it,” she said.

A Klobuchar supporter, she will be watching for her candidate to say something to set herself apart from the other candidates. The 10-candidate debates have been clunky so far, Honorow said, but she wants to see if the candidates have found a rhythm, now that they are in their third.

She will be listening for policies on economic opportunity, and how the Democratic candidates would reverse policies of the Trump administration, especially on tax policy and public education.

She wants Klobuchar to focus on her policies, not attack other candidates.

“I’m not looking for her to get in a knock-down, drag-out fight with any of the other candidates on the stage,” she said.

Fergus Cullen, a former state Republican chairman who describes himself as a Never Trumper, remembers watching the winnowing of the 2016 field of Republican contenders for President. September, he said, no longer qualifies as the early days for a campaign.

“We’re in the middle innings, and if you don’t have a lead, you’re going to have a hard time catching up,” he said.

“If you don’t meet the threshold for the debate, your campaign runs out of oxygen really fast,” Cullen said, citing the 2016 campaigns of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and businesswoman Carly Fiorina. “It’s probably about to happen for a lot of Democrats.”