Bernie Sanders, Rising in Polls, Gets Standing-Room-Only Crowds in New Hampshire

But the senator from Vermont has a lot of ground to make up to truly compete with Hillary Clinton in the state.

June 27, 2015, 4:16 p.m.

HENNIKER, New Hampshire—Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his call for a “political revolution” back to the first-in-the-nation primary state Saturday, again drawing enthusiastic crowds who cheered his message of curbing the influence of corporate interests in politics.

The Vermont independent praised the Supreme Court decisions on the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage, but said the battle to reduce income and wealth inequality would be far tougher. “It is a much more difficult thing to look the billionaire class in the eye and say: You cannot have it all,” Sanders said during a speech and question-and-answer session at a town meeting here.

This weekend’s New Hampshire appearances are Sanders’ first since recent polls show him emerging as the leading challenger to front-runner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic primary nomination. One poll released by WMUR and CNN found Sanders just 8 points behind Clinton in New Hampshire. (although a second poll released the same day by Bloomberg and St. Anselm College showed Clinton with a 32-point lead.)

The Clinton campaign, however, has enjoyed a big head start in laying the groundwork for its turnout efforts in the Democratic primary. It already has opened a handful of field offices in the state and has two dozen paid staff. The campaign spent Saturday morning in its first canvassing effort aimed at likely primary voters.

Sanders’ New Hampshire team is only just coming together. Sanders’ New Hampshire coordinator, Kurt Ehrenberg, was hired a month ago, and so far has hired an operations manager and two field organizers. A state headquarters office is set to open in Concord, with other offices planned for the coming weeks, he said.

Sanders has been elected as an independent over his two-decade congressional career, and describes his political philosophy as “democratic socialism,” as is practiced in much of Western Europe. Even some Democrats argue that Sanders is unelectable to national office because of that label.

He has nevertheless drawn large audiences across the country, including 5,000 at a recent appearance in Denver.

Seth Kallman, a retired contractor from Harrisville who attended the Henniker appearance, said he agrees that the “socialist” label likely is harmful. “I admire that he steps forward and uses it anyway, because he is honest,” Kallman said, calling that one of Sanders’ best attributes. “You couldn’t get Hillary to speak that frankly. He is speaking frankly.”

Sanders saw an audience of 500 at a morning town meeting in Nashua, about 150 at a house party in Bow, and 350 at the Henniker town meeting Saturday evening. All three were standing room only, exceeding expected attendance.

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