Clinton, Sanders, try to swing voters days ahead of NH primary

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MANCHESTER, NH– An enthusiastic crowd piled into the Verizon Wireless Arena Friday night for the McIntyre Shaheen 100 Club Celebration for New Hampshire Democrats. Like fans supporting rival sports team, the arena split with Clinton supporters filing in to the left and Sanders supporters to the right, as many of the 6,000 attendees recited chants, waved signs and competed to see which side could cheer the loudest while they waited for the presentations to start.

Sanders supporters appeared to fill more of the stands, eagerly waving “Feel the Bern” signs and chanting “Bernie Sanders has our back, we don’t need a Super PAC,” a reference to the Vermont Senator’s refusal to accept Super PAC donations.  The Sanders campaign has instead relied  on millions of small donations that average $27 a piece.

“I support Bernie Sanders because he believes that campaign finance reform needs to happen as soon as possible,” said Joshua Elliott, a 31-year-old from Hamden, Connecticut who has traveled to New Hampshire to canvas for the Sanders campaign until the primary vote on Tuesday.

“After 2010, we have more money coming in than ever before, and to combat that we need as many volunteers and small contributors as possible. That’s what he’s doing and that’s why I’m voting for Bernie.”

According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Sanders is ahead of his only rival for the Democratic nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in New Hampshire 55.3 percent to her 37.8 percent.

Taking the stage Friday night, Sanders repeated the same Democratic Socialist refrain he has used to rally younger voters on the campaign trail:

“I have been criticized because I believe that all of our people in this great country are entitled to health care,” he said, pausing for the raucous cheering that followed. “So let me be as a clear as I can: I confess, I believe that healthcare is a right of all people, not a privilege.”

At times, even voters on the Clinton side would clap, albeit it in a more demurred manner, as Sanders called for raising the minimum wage and putting an end to “price gouging” by the pharmaceutical industry. A large number of Clinton supporters also cheered for Sanders when he reminded the crowd that he never supported the war in Iraq. In 2002, while serving as a Senator from New York, Clinton voted in favor of authorizing the Iraq war.

Taking the stage after Sanders, Clinton appeared unfazed by her trailing New Hampshire poll numbers.

“Some people have looked at the polls that show that Senator Sanders has a big lead here and suggested that I should just look past New Hampshire and focus on the next state,” she said. “Well, New Hampshire’s never quit on me, and I’m not going to quit on you.”

Sanders continues to poll better with younger voters than Clinton, beating her by a margin of 6-1 among voters under 30 in the Iowa caucus last week.

But some young voters are still out and eager for the Clinton campaign.

“I’ve been studying her for the past few months,” said Ariana Morrocco, a 23 year-old student from Plainville, Massachusetts.

“I’ve been studying her rhetoric, I’ve been studying her policies, and she’s someone I’ve always admired and looked up to. In particular, the Paycheck Fairness Act. As a young woman I aspire to be a political leader someday and she really does inspire me that someday, hopefully very soon we can shatter the glass ceiling.”

Clinton won the Iowa caucus over Sanders last week by a narrow margin, 49.9 percent to Sanders’ 49.6 percent.  New Hampshire voters will get their turn to weigh in on Feb. 9.