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After Health Scare, Bernie Sanders Is Back And Campaigning Hard In New Hampshire04:12
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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to a crowd, Oct. 30, 2019, during a campaign event in Keene, N.H. (Steven Senne/AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to a crowd, Oct. 30, 2019, during a campaign event in Keene, N.H. (Steven Senne/AP)

Despite suffering a heart attack earlier this month that halted his campaign for two weeks, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is raising big money, attracting huge crowds and, according to a new poll, leading the Democratic presidential primary race in New Hampshire.

Sanders greeted a rowdy crowd at Keene State College on Wednesday night at a rally called "Bernie's Back."

And he was very much back, with a full-throated resumption of his populist campaign for progressive policies, promising to bring the fight to Donald Trump. Sanders did not mince words, calling Trump "the most dangerous president in the country's history."

"[Trump] is a pathological liar, who is running the most corrupt administration in the modern history of this country, who is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe and a religious bigot," Sanders declared to a cheering crowd of several hundred supporters.

Sanders delivered what is by now a familiar message, calling out corruption in Washington and slamming a government and economy that he says serve the rich and powerful at the expense of working people. He wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street speculators and fund a range of programs, from Medicare for All to tuition-free public college, while tackling an issue that many in the college audience Wednesday night struggle with.

Sanders supporters wave placards at the campaign event Wednesday. (Steven Senne/AP)
Sanders supporters wave placards at the campaign event Wednesday. (Steven Senne/AP)

"And by the way, maybe it's time to cancel all student debt in this country," Sanders said.

When Sanders resumed his campaign last week in New York, he drew 26,000 people. Wednesday night's rally was indoors and considerably smaller, but his supporters were no less committed, expressing a kind of adulation for him.

"There's nobody like him," said Dorothy Koda, who came up to Keene from Northfield, Massachusetts. "He's a very down-to-earth, compassionate, caring, smart human being."

Koda said after Sanders' heart attack she was worried his campaign might be over.

"After he had his event, it was radio silence for over 24 hours," she said. "The campaign did not reach out to anyone. That scared me."

But now Koda is convinced that the 78-year-old Sanders will be able to handle the rigors of a long campaign.

So is Rebecca Shersnow from Phillipston, Massachusetts.

"Despite the heart attack, he's very fit," Shersnow said. "He's ready to go, and I think he's as strong as ever. I have always been a true believer in working people, and I think Bernie represents that. And so does Elizabeth Warren, frankly."

Sanders greets people in the crowd at the conclusion of the event. (Steven Senne/AP)
Sanders greets people in the crowd at the conclusion of the event. (Steven Senne/AP)

Warren and Sanders are competing for the progressive mantle in this contest, pushing similar policies, including Medicare for All. And while Warren's campaign has been gaining strength in recent months, a CNN-University of New Hampshire poll out this week has Sanders in first place, running just ahead of Warren in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Meanwhile, he has been raising more money than anyone else in the Democratic field.

Andy Smith, who directs the UNH polling center, said Sanders appears to be well-positioned in this race despite his heart attack.

"This polling is indicating that he's bounced back from it fairly well, and I think during the debate last time he did a good job," Smith said. "He's not as strong as he was in 2015 at this point, but he's still in really good shape."

Smith said as Sanders and Warren continue to lead the crowded Democratic field in New Hampshire, the poll found former Vice President Joe Biden continues to slip — down 9 percentage points since last summer.

But Smith warned the largest share of likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire still haven't made up their minds, so this race remains very much open.

Have a story idea, question or feedback? Email the politics team: politics@wbur.org.

This segment aired on October 31, 2019.

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

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