Senator Bernie Sanders spoke for more than an hour Saturday morning at a town hall at Nashua Community College. The independent from Vermont, who is running for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, covered a wide range of issues, including income inequality, campaign finance reform and climate change.
Sanders called on Americans to take on what he calls the billionaire class, which he says controls too much of the country’s wealth and power.
“There is no way,” Sanders said to an enthusiastic crowd, “that we are going to move an agenda forward that represents working families and the middle class unless there is a mass movement of people in this country that says ‘enough is enough.’”
Recent polls show Sanders is gaining among Democratic Party voters in New Hampshire. A Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm poll out this week shows 24% of New Hampshire Democrats support Sanders, six percentage points higher than last month. The poll has Sanders well behind frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who is in the lead at 56%.
But a CNN/WMUR poll also out this week has Sanders just eight points behind Clinton in the Granite State. Both polls have former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee at 2% or under.
According to the Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm poll, 89% of those backing Sanders in New Hampshire say it’s because of what he stands for. Only 8% say they support Sanders because they don’t want Clinton to be the party’s nominee.
Sanders took questions from the audience at Saturday’s town hall, saying that his vote against the Iraq War proved he was a “deficit hawk”, and reiterating his opposition to the recently enacted USA Freedom Act, which restored parts of the Patriot Act relating to government surveillance.
Responding to a question about his position on gun control, Sanders boasted that he had “a lifetime voting record from the NRA of somewhere between D and F.”
Sanders drew a distinction between guns in urban America and in rural America, saying he voted to ban assault weapons and weapons with large-capacity magazines. “I believe that these are guns designed to kill human beings, not to hunt,” he said. “They should not be on the streets available to criminals.”
He also praised two historic decisions that came down from the US Supreme Court this week, one upholding federal subsidies for health insurance through Obamacare and the other legalizing same-sex marriage across the country.
Sanders recounted his vote in 1996, as a member of the House of Representatives, against the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman for the purposes of the federal government (the law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013).
“Not too many voted against it,” Sanders said. “I did.”
Along with the applause, several in the crowd waved rainbow flags that contained the “Bernie” campaign logo.