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Sanders looks to reclaim leader status during two-day swing through N.H.

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  • Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to a crowd in Wolfeboro on Monday during a two-day swing through New Hampshire. PAUL STEINHAUSER / Monitor staff

For the Monitor
Published: 8/13/2019 6:12:00 PM

Bernie Sanders has a message for his supporters in New Hampshire.

“This time, we’re going to win it,” the independent senator from Vermont emphasized during a four-stop Tuesday-Wednesday campaign swing through the Lakes Region and the North Country.

New Hampshire put Sanders on the national map four years ago. His crushing defeat of Hillary Clinton in the February 2016 primary launched him into a marathon battle against the eventual nominee.

While the 2016 primary race was basically a two-person contest, the 2020 cycle is a whole new ballgame. And thanks to a record-setting field of two-dozen Democratic candidates, many of whom are promoting the same progressive proposals that Sanders moved from the fringe to the mainstream of the Democratic Party four years ago, the senator’s facing plenty of competition in a state he owned four years ago.

Playing to his audience at his first event – Tuesday evening in Wolfeboro – he emphasized, “I don’t have to tell anybody here how important New Hampshire is.”

Pointing to the state’s century old tradition of holding the first primary in the race for the White House, he noted “you play a very, very, oversized role” before he was interrupted by laughter from the crowd.

“I’m humbled. I admit it,” he quickly recovered.

Sanders interaction with the audiences at his events the past two days is a noticeable shift from earlier this year, and it’s another sign of the candidate stepping up his game compared to his 2016 campaign.

Political pundits and analysts consider the first-in-the-nation primary a must-win state for Sanders, as well as for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Both candidates have large campaign staffs in the state, as the populist standard-bearers battle for the progressive heart of the Democratic Party.

Recent polling suggested Warren is catching up.

The only live operator survey in the Granite State conducted after the second round of debates put former Vice President Joe Biden – the front-runner in the nomination race – at 21%, with Sanders at 17%. Warren stood at 14% in the Suffolk University poll for the Boston Globe, just 3 percentage points behind Sanders. Everyone else registered in single digits.

“I don’t like the word ‘must’ win but it’s (New Hampshire) enormously important for me and for every other candidate,” Sanders acknowledged Tuesday in an interview with the Concord-based

Warren, who’s set to return to the Granite State on Wednesday – with stops in Franconia and Wolfeboro – has a message that resonates with some former Sanders backers.

One of them is Ron Abramson of Bow, who was a big Sanders supporter in 2016. This time around, Abramson, one of New Hampshire’s top immigration attorneys is backing Warren.

“For me, 2020 is not 2016. I still like, admire and respect Bernie. I appreciate what he’s done, especially in terms of shaping the national conversation and moving certain issues from what seemed to be more of the fringe to within the realm of possibility and mainstream discussion,” Abramson told the Monitor.

But he added, “I just felt like this was the time for someone who provided more detail about how to achieve some of these objectives and priorities and may have, in fact, appeal to a broader segment of the electorate.”

Abramson – who hosted a house party for Warren last month – highlighted that he believes Warren “has the ability to appeal to more people, both in terms of the primary and the general.”

But Burt Cohen, a progressive radio host and former long-time state senator from New Castle, disagreed.

He argued that “we really need to win the Midwest and I sense – talking to good friends in that part of the world – that Bernie connects better than Elizabeth Warren does there.”

Sanders has continued to have a large group of very committed supporters in the state. The Sanders steering committee has been meeting monthly since the 2016 election.

Cohen, a member of that steering committee, held off on formally endorsing Sanders until two weeks ago, as he took a long look at the other candidates running for the Democratic nomination.

While he has endorsed Sanders, he added he also was a Warren fan, saying, “I like them both.”

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