US Senator Bernie Sanders vowed Monday to draw deeper contrasts with his primary rival, Hillary Clinton, especially on trade and campaign finance, mounting what he described as a state-by-state primary “slog” that includes Massachusetts.
“What I intend to do over the next number of weeks is contrast my record to Secretary Clinton,” Sanders told reporters at a South Boston union hall. “People need to know the difference between hastily adopted campaign rhetoric and the real record and long-held ideas of the candidate.”
After a massive victory in the New Hampshire primary earlier this month, Sanders lost Saturday’s Nevada caucuses and his momentum in the race for the Democratic nomination. Even more concerning for Sanders is Saturday’s South Carolina primary, where recent polls show Clinton leading by 25 percentage points.
Facing long odds in the South, Sanders has sought to expand the map of states where he can compete on March 1, known as Super Tuesday, when 11 states will hold nominating contests for Democrats, including Massachusetts.
“This is a slog,” Sanders said of the several-month-long presidential nomination calendar. “A state by state by state by state contest, and Massachusetts on Super Tuesday is one of the largest states in terms of delegates and we hope to win.”
On Monday evening, Sanders hosted a rally for 7,500 people at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, where the line of people snaked down several blocks outside the William D. Mullins Memorial Center in the hours before his appearance. In front of the rowdy crowd, Sanders did not hesitate to tick off the ways in which he said he differs from Clinton.
While his campaign is funded by large numbers of small donors, he said, “Secretary Clinton has chosen to go in a different direction — she has a number of super PACs.” When Sanders announced Clinton has received $15 million from Wall Street donors, the crowd erupted into a chorus of “Boos.”
After telling rallygoers his campaign had received contributions from 4 million individual donors, he posed this question: “Do you know what the average contribution is?” The crowd shouted back loudly, “27 DOLLARS,” prompting a rare broad smile from Sanders.
Sanders’ appearances in the state marked an uptick in his criticism of Clinton. At the start of his campaign, Sanders stated his aversion to negative advertisements, but he has pointed out what his campaign views as flaws in her candidacy, especially during debates. On Monday, he started to more specifically talk about those contrasts unprompted. “She supported NAFTA,” Sanders said in South Boston. “She supported normalized trade relations with China. Now I am happy to report that when it comes to the latest issue, [the Trans-Pacific Partnership], she has changed her position.”
On Monday, Clinton hosted a series of fund-raisers for her campaign in southern California. She is not scheduled to campaign in Massachusetts ahead of Tuesday’s primary. She last made a public appearance in the Bay State around Thanksgiving, when she received the endorsement of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
“How revolutionary: after a loss in Nevada and facing an uphill climb in South Carolina, Bernie Sanders is breaking his campaign pledge once again to trot out old, tired attacks on Hillary Clinton,” said Christina Reynolds, a deputy communications director for Clinton’s campaign.
A Public Policy Polling survey released last week showed Sanders leading Clinton, 49 percent to 42 percent, in Massachusetts. In the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the state.
Boston College political science professor Dave Hopkins said he sees Massachusetts as a must-win for Sanders, but noted that Sanders has demographics on his side in the state.
“[Massachusetts] is a state where much of the Democratic electorate is both firmly liberal and mostly white, and polls in previous states have suggested that Sanders runs better among liberals than moderates and better among whites than non-whites,” said Hopkins. “In addition, he’s from a neighboring state, which is usually worth a few percentage points of support in a presidential primary.”
Of the nearly dozen states voting on Super Tuesday, Sanders aides said they believe they can possibly win four nominating contests: caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, and primaries in Vermont and Massachusetts. A recent poll showed Sanders statistically tied with Clinton in Oklahoma.
Sanders noted that while he lost Nevada, he came away with nearly as many delegates as Clinton, adding the difference is ‘‘not so important’’ in the quest to 2,400 delegates needed to win the nomination.
But Clinton maintains a large lead among superdelegates, or party leaders who have an elevated say in the nomination. As a result, she leads Sanders, 502 to 70, among overall delegates in the race to the nomination.
Globe correspondent Laurie Loisel contributed to this report. James Pindell
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