MANCHESTER, N.H. — Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday called one-time rival Hillary Clinton the “superior candidate” in the presidential race while slamming Donald Trump as a liar who has made bigotry a central part of his campaign and does not support causes crucial to the middle class.
As the Democratic presidential candidate tries to win over voters in Ohio Monday, the campaign dispatched the Vermont senator to the state in which he trounced Clinton during the primaries. The visit to the Granite State, which kicked off with a speech during a Labor Day breakfast for the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, marked the first time after the Democratic National Convention that Sanders has campaigned solo for his former rival.
“On issue after issue, there should be no doubt on anybody’s mind as to whether Hillary Clinton is the superior candidate — because in every respect, she is,” Sanders told the crowd of union supporters, who he also urged to propel Governor Maggie Hassan to a Senate victory.
Much of the crowd was pro-Clinton, though a few supporters wearing Sanders shirts and said they may vote for third party nominees, such as Libertarian Party candidate Governor Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Outside the event, a group of Johnson supporters greeted honks of support, and a woman stood with a sign supporting Stein on one side, and proclaiming “No Corruption, No Clinton” on the other.
In a bid to win over such voters, Sanders and other speakers -- including US Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat -- took a tack that has become familiar by now: piling on Trump as an anti-labor candidate who would bring ruin to the working class and presenting Clinton is the only way to stop him.
“At the end of the day, what we are not talking about are personalities,” he said. “We are talking about which candidate is going to better represent the needs of the American people.”
In a room that hosted a large sign proclaiming, “Take Action, Stop Trump,” Sanders ran through a list of familiar campaign issues that were key to several of his primary victories -- free tuition for public universities, appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Citizens United decision, raising the minimum wage. But this time, he punctuated each subject with a promise that Clinton supported such issues, too.
He simultaneously attacked Trump as the candidate who does not understand the problems facing the working class and middle class. Sanders seized on a statement that Trump made during a Republican Party presidential debate, when he said that taxes and wages were “too high.”
“I don’t know what world that billionaire lives in, but anyone who thinks wages in America are too high doesn’t live in the world we live in,” Sanders said. “Hillary Clinton has made it clear that the minimum wage must be raised to a living wage.”
Though Clinton holds a lead over Trump in New Hampshire, Sanders, Shaheen, and a host of local politicians on Monday made it a point to speak to Democratic voters who have not been convinced to stand by Clinton.
Shaheen warned the union supporters who packed the hall that voting for candidates such as Stein or Johnson could result in another Republican administration. Some voters weren’t excited for either Clinton or Trump -- and that, she said, reminded her of the 2000 presidential election.
“What happened in 2000 is Al Gore lost New Hampshire by about 7,000 votes and 19,000 people voted for Ralph Nader,” she said. “And we got George W. Bush, and we got the war in Iraq.”
But such proclamations may not be enough for some die-hard Sanders supporters. Debbie Cuenca, a New Hampshire Democrat who is running for state representative, said she does not want to vote for Clinton. She believes she speaks for many Democratic Sanders supporters when she said she would rather support someone from outside the party.
“We feel disenfranchised, like this has been stolen from us,” said Cuenca, who was wearing a Sanders shirt.
At another event later in the day in Warner, Sanders urged the crowd to keep the political momentum for key issues going past election day. He followed up the event with a large campaign rally for Clinton at Lebanon High School later in the afternoon.
In Warner, at an event organized by the left-leaning Rights and Democracy group, some Democrats seemed reluctant, but ready, to support Clinton.
“I think a lot of people feel like we’re voting for the best of the worst,” said Peter Ingold, of Warner. “She’s too much of a politician.”
Yet he and his wife, Kerry Ingold, said they feel like they have no other choice but to vote for her -- which seemed to match the tone of some of the events that day.
“We are very, very terrified of Trump,” Kerry Ingold said.