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Warren And Sanders Spend Labor Day Weekend Campaigning In N.H.05:55
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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a campaign event Monday in Hampton Falls, N.H. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a campaign event Monday in Hampton Falls, N.H. (Elise Amendola/AP)

The final summer holiday is also the unofficial start of the presidential campaign in earnest, and Democratic hopefuls and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders campaigned in New Hampshire over the long Labor Day weekend.

Sanders barnstormed across the state, holding five events. On Sunday, he was in the town of Raymond, where Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — founders of Vermont's Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream — dished out bowls of it before they introduced Sanders to about 400 supporters.

"When we get Bernie elected and Jerry and I become Ministers of Ice Cream, I promise a pint in every freezer, a sundae in every bowl," Cohen said.

Sanders did not promise free ice cream for America. But he did push his plans for tuition-free public college, canceling student debt, a $15 minimum wage and a tax on Wall Street speculation — as well as his signature proposal.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., addresses an audience during a presidential campaign event Sunday in Raymond, N.H. (Steven Senne/AP)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., addresses an audience during a presidential campaign event Sunday in Raymond, N.H. (Steven Senne/AP)

"Four years ago I came to New Hampshire and threw out another 'radical idea,' " Sanders said. That "radical idea" is Medicare for All, which would do away with premiums and co-pays and end private insurance, in favor of a government-run health care system.

"Maybe the United States of America should do what virtually every other major country on Earth does and guarantee health care to all people as a human right, not a privilege," the senator said.

Polling suggests that health care is a top issue for Americans. And a majority of Democrats and independents favor a government-run health care system, though support drops when they're told they'd have to give up their private plans.

But this is the issue Sanders spends most of his time talking about — and it's hugely important to many of his supporters. Among them: Madeline Egbert from Mont Vernon, New Hampshire, who was in Raymond with her husband and 1-year-old daughter.

"Our daughter is considered disabled," Egbert said. "And I don't think it's right as she grows older for her to have to face financial issues because she can't afford her medical care. So that's a real big issue for us, and Bernie — we love him for many reasons, but that's the big one."

With the fall campaign season about to begin, polls suggest that former Vice President Joe Biden remains the Democratic front-runner. And for the moment at least, the big contest is for second place between Sanders and Warren, who are competing for many of the same progressive voters. Sanders remains popular among his core supporters, and his polling numbers have been stable throughout the summer. But Warren has been on the rise, attracting donors and huge crowds across the country.

On Monday, about 800 people came out to hear Warren for a Labor Day house party in Hampton Falls. Even though rain cut the event short, many braved the steady drizzle to get a selfie with her.

Warren is proposing what she calls "big structural changes" to confront government corruption and help working Americans. Like Sanders, she supports Medicare for All — as well as universal childcare and pre-k, higher wages for teachers and tuition-free public college — all paid for by a tax on the super-wealthy. On Monday she advocated forcefully for a progressive agenda as the best way to beat President Trump.

"I think what's going to carry us as Democrats is not playing it safe — and then producing plans, real plans, for big structural change," Warren said. "That's what people want in this country. I think you've got to give people a reason to show up and vote, and that's what I'm doing."

Katie DeAngelis of Epping, New Hampshire, says there are lots of reasons she supports Warren — most importantly, her stance on health care.

"One of the things I really love about Elizabeth is that she has a plan for everything," DeAngelis said. "Medicare for All is huge for me. I want everybody — regardless of race, gender, the amount of money they make — to have quality health care."

DeAngelis says she supported Sanders in 2016, but is now backing Warren.

So is Casey Wright, from Ipswich, Massachusetts, who came up to New Hampshire to hear Warren.

"I was a huge Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016, and I think Bernie lit the fuse for the Democratic side of the Democratic Party," Wright said. "But I feel like he had his chance, and I think that Elizabeth articulates it better, and I think that's going to get her elected."

Voters like that help explain Warren's current momentum. Along with Biden, she and Sanders are the only candidates in a crowded Democratic field who are polling in double digits. In other words, it's beginning to feel like a three-person race.

But so far, the two New England senators have opted not to attack each other. Over the weekend in New Hampshire, Sanders didn't mention Warren. And when she was asked Monday if their unofficial "non-aggression pact" will hold, Warren said this: "Bernie and I have been friends for many years, long before I ever got into politics, and I don't see any reason why that should change."

One reason might be if the race between them continues to tighten.

This segment aired on September 3, 2019.

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Anthony Brooks Twitter Senior Political Reporter
Anthony Brooks is WBUR's senior political reporter.

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