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Bernie Sanders Makes Final Appeal To New Hampshire Voters

Bernie Sanders stands at a podium with a microphone in his hand.
Liam Elder-Connors
/
VPR
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in Rochester, N.H. on Saturday during the last weekend before Granite State residents vote in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary election.

Monday marks the final day of campaigning for candidates before the New Hampshire presidential primary. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will travel all over the state in a final pitch to voters. That builds on a full weekend of events, from canvassers knocking on doors to the candidate rallying supporters.

Shoppers Pub is a pretty typical sports bar in Manchester. It’s the kind of place where you can get a burger and beer, watch the game on a big TV and play some Keno. But Saturday morning, the bar was packed with volunteers for Bernie Sanders.

Ruth Simcox stood near a long table filled with bagels, pastries and fruit. She was showing Dylan Yauch and Miguel Aragon how to canvas.

“So if that person, you can ask them if they're a Bernie supporter, if they are, you want to push that,” she told them.

Two young people stand next to each other.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR
Dylan Yauch, left, and Miguel Aragon, right, drove up from Boston to Manchester, N.H. Friday to canvass for Bernie Sanders.

Yauch and Aragon came up from Boston to volunteer for Sanders. Neither of them had ever knocked on doors for a presidential candidate before. Yauch said Sanders’ focus on addressing climate change and the wealth gap motivated him.

“When you look at who we have that could be president, the only person that really I think has a track record that shows he cares about these issues is Bernie,” he said. “And I think it’s one of those things that we all need to show up for.”

A little after 9 a.m., Sanders campaign field organizer Susmik Lama jumped on a bench in the middle of the room and told the crowd it was time to get started.

“You know, we win this campaign by talking to people we know and by talking to people we don’t know, and today we will be talking to people we don’t know, and volunteers are the core of this campaign,
 she said. “There are hundreds of doors that need to be knocked.”

A person stands up with a microphone.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR
Susmik Lama speaks to Bernie Sanders canvassers in the Shoppers Pub in Manchester, N.H. Friday.

Sanders won New Hampshire’s 2016 Democratic primary with 61% of the vote. But the campaign doesn’t seem to be taking another win for granted in 2020. Sanders spent the weekend traveling the state, urging people to get out and vote. All the way he was trailed by supporters … and reporters like me.

I drove an hour northeast of Manchester to the opera house in the city of Rochester. The median household income is lower than the state’s average: Nearly 11% of people live below the poverty level.

I met Kelly Fogg waiting in line. He was buying a couple of Bernie Sanders buttons: 

“'Feel The Bern,' oh they’re selling stuff, man!”

A person in orange buys political buttons.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR
Kelly Fogg buys a couple Bernie Sanders buttons outside an event in Rochester, N.H. Saturday.

Fogg said he was a truck driver, and that he’s concerned about climate change.

“My footprint is not very good, my carbon footprint, because I do a lot of driving,” he said. “But my heart is in the right spot.”

One of the reasons Fogg supports Sanders, he said, is because of his promise to tackle climate change with a plan that includes switching to 100% renewable energy and investing in public transportation.

“If we don’t do anything about the climate in the next few years, we’re screwed,” Fogg said. “We gotta get Trump out of there, because he doesn't even believe it even exists.”

At the other end of the line, Raina Roy said she hadn’t made up her mind about who she’ll support in the Democratic Primary.

More from VPR — 'Bernie's My Man!': On The Ground With New Hampshire Primary Voters

“I would say my top choices are Bernie or Buttigieg,” Roy said. “I think probably my political views are closer to Bernie, and I’m looking at a lot of friends who maybe consider Buttigieg more electable.”

Former South Bend Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg finished better than expected in the Iowa Caucus. He’s seen a bump in popularity in the week leading up to the New Hampshire primary, and Sanders and his supporters have noticed. 

On Saturday night, all the Democratic candidates spoke at the McIntyre-Shaheen Dinner. The event, a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, was in an arena in Manchester. It was sort of a cross between a stadium rock concert and political rally. Each campaign had a section to the stadium to fill with supporters.

People hold light-up Bernie Sanders signs in a crowd.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR
Bernie Sanders supporters turn out at the McIntyre-Shaheen Dinner Saturday.

In his speech, Buttigieg’s didn’t name Sanders, but seemed to point to him.

“With a president this divisive, we cannot risk dividing Americans' future further, saying, ‘You must either be for a revolution or you must be for the status quo.’”

Sanders’ supporters started booing and chanting “Wall Street Pete.”

The next day at a rally in Hanover, Sanders criticized Buttigieg for taking donations from billionaires. 

“I’m running against some guys, Pete Buttigieg, among others, who have raised campaign funds from over 40 billionaires, heads of large corporations, CEOs in the pharmaceutical industry, people from Wall Street,” Sanders said. “Our campaign is a very different campaign.”

But despite the growing tension between the two frontrunners, Sanders largely stuck to familiar ground in some of his final weekend rallies.

Bernie-podium-vpr-connors-20200208.jpg
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in the opera house in Rochester, N.H. over the weekend.

Medicare for all:

“ … guarantee health care to every man, woman and child as a human right,” Sanders said.

Criminal justice reform:

“ … our administration will end cash bail in America,” he said.

Raising the minimum wage: 

“ … to $15 dollars an hour,” Sanders said.

And he asked the audience to vote:

“So what I’m asking of you, obviously, is your support Tuesday,” Sanders said. “I’m asking for your help to win the Democratic nomination, I’m asking for your help to defeat Donald Trump.”

Judging from the loud cheers and the Bernie hats, signs and shirts, many in the crowd at Sanders’ rallies already support him. But some are still making up their mind, like Roelf Versteeg.

A dad and a daughter wearing a Bernie t-shirt.
Credit Liam Elder-Connors / VPR
Roelf Versteeg and his 16-year-old daughter, Lily, at a Bernie Sanders event in New Hampshire the last weekend before that state's presidential primary election.

“I’m looking for someone who can show they can be pragmatic and realize that everything is a grey issue,” Versteeg said.

As he spoke, Versteeg’s 16-year-old daughter, Lily, rolled her eyes in the way only a teenager can. She had a Bernie Sanders t-shirt and sign. She said she’s a Bernie fan, and that she’s going to try and convince her dad to vote for her guy.

“Even if it doesn’t change your mind, I want to educate you,” Lily told her dad.

“Well, education goes both ways,” Versteeg pointed out.

“I know everything,” Lily countered.

“You’re a teenager, of course you know everything!” Versteeg laughed.

Sanders will maintain a brisk campaign schedule into Tuesday’s primary, starting Monday with a breakfast event in Manchester and ending with a "get out the vote" rally in Durham.

Correction Feb. 10, 11 a.m.: A photo caption has been updated to reflect the accurate location where Sen. Bernie Sanders was speaking.

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