PLYMOUTH, N.H. — Senator Bernie Sanders started a cross-country campaign tour for his former rival Hillary Clinton Tuesday, deliberately steering clear of the cascading controversies engulfing the Democratic nominee for the White House in the final days of the election.
Amid the furor over the federal investigation into Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server and the continuing release of hacked e-mails from her campaign, Sanders urged voters to stay focused on the issues facing the country — including the battle for control of the Senate — and not the campaign scandals.
“I understand that a lot of people are discouraged by this campaign, and some people are going to sit it out. Don’t you be one of them,” he said. “The stakes are much too high. This is not a personality contest. You are not voting for the senior class president at the local high school. You are voting for the most important public official in the world. The differences between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump are day and night.”
With Election Day less than a week away, both campaigns have begun revving up their get-out-the-vote strategies, imploring voters to head to the polls on Tuesday, especially in key battleground states like New Hampshire.
Wearing a neon-green T-shirt emblazoned with “nasty woman” on the front — an homage to a dig Trump made at Clinton during the final presidential debate — Susan Jayne of Thornton, N.H., said the recent controversies strengthened her support for Clinton. She canvasses for her daily and said she plans to knock on even more doors in the final days of the campaign.
“You realize all the years they’ve been attacking her and everything has been pretty much unfounded,” Jayne, 59, said. “She’s a tough lady being able to put up with all the stuff she’s had to put up with.”
Richard Osborne, a candidate for state representative in Campton, N.H., said last week’s news of the FBI probe and the leaked e-mails are a “last-minute” attempt to embarrass Clinton.
“Everything that’s been thrown at her is innuendo,” he said. “What I say to people who ask me is: If you had been charged with a crime three times and gone to court three times and found not guilty three times, wouldn’t you be a little pissed if people keep bringing this back up?”
Too much attention has been paid to such attacks, Sanders said.
So for nearly 30 minutes, the senator from Vermont laid out the differences between the Democratic and Republican platforms and the parties’ standard-bearers on everything from climate change to pay equity to dismantling economic inequality before a crowd of about 400 people at Plymouth State University.
“I have been running all over this country for the last year and a half, and I’ve talked about a tax system which is extraordinarily unfair. And yet in one day, Donald Trump did more to educate the American people about the unfairness and absurdity of our tax system than I did in a year and half,” Sanders said. “What Trump did was say, ‘Hey, I am a multibillionaire . . . and my fellow multibillionaires, we don’t have to pay any federal income tax because the middle class and the working class of this country do.’ ”
Trump acknowledged during the second presidential debate that he took advantage of a tax loophole that allowed him to avoid paying federal income tax for nearly 20 years as a result of a reported $916 million loss in 1995.
Democrats are also fighting to regain control of the Senate on Nov. 8, Sanders noted, and New Hampshire is a state that could help sway the balance. Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan is battling incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican. And while recent polls show Clinton leading Trump in New Hampshire, the race between Ayotte and Hassan is a tossup.
“I need all of your help,” Hassan told the crowd before introducing Sanders. “We need to work in the next week to get out every last vote.”
Hassan highlighted the progress New Hampshire has made during her tenure as governor — lowering community college costs, freezing tuition at state universities, and reducing unemployment — while telling voters that “for months, Senator Ayotte stood by Donald Trump, reiterating her support for him at least 35 times.”
Ayotte has since said that she would not vote for Trump after numerous women came forward alleging that he sexually assaulted them and Trump was heard on video bragging about groping women.
“Maggie Hassan will win if there is a large voter turnout,” Sanders told the crowd. “Maggie Hassan will lose if there is a low voter turnout. If Maggie Hassan loses, the likelihood is that the Republicans will continue to control the United States Senate and bring forth an incredibly reactionary agenda.”
That point — the role of Congress in advancing a legislative agenda — underscores one that Gary Moody of Milford, N.H., said he’s tried to make throughout the entire 2016 campaign season to whoever will listen.
“It’s a false hope that one person can fix it,” Moody, 65, said before the rally. “It’s the Congress collectively that’s responsible for what’s happening.”
An independent voter, Moody plans to protest Trump by casting his ballot for Clinton.Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.