Will Sanders’ support send voters to Clinton?

The two candidates unite for a boisterous event in Portsmouth

“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told a crowd of thousands at Portsmouth High School on Tuesday morning. “She will be the Democratic nominee for president, and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president.”

Five months after Sanders won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire over Hillary Clinton, he joined the former secretary of state on stage in Portsmouth to concede her victory and offer his official endorsement.

“Hillary will make an outstanding president, and I am proud to stand by her side,” Sanders said to cheers.

But how many of Sanders’ avid devotees will shift their support to Clinton for the general election in November? And will it be enough to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump?


Boisterous crowd
Having Sanders announce his endorsement here in New Hampshire made strategic sense for Clinton. It’s a swing state where Sanders won by more than 20 points in the primary, and it borders his home state of Vermont.

But the event also showed that it won’t be easy for Clinton to win over all the progressive voters who have been supporting Sanders, even after his endorsement of her. While many in the crowd held blue signs reading “stronger together,” hundreds of others waved “Bernie” signs and repeatedly chanted his name, and some of them were openly hostile toward Clinton’s camp. Several of the introductory speakers, including Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, were repeatedly interrupted by shouts and chants from audience members, some of whom yelled “never her” or “hell no.”

Police intervened in a few minor altercations. At one point, a man sitting near the press area leaned over and grabbed a vocal Sanders supporter standing a couple of rows in front of him. She went looking for security, and a police officer spoke to each of them individually. At times, attendees tried to drown each other out with opposing chants of “Bernie” and “Hillary.”

Sanders and Clinton did their best to unify the crowd. The event began with a speech from climate activist Bill McKibben, who had introduced Sanders when he first announced his candidacy, and who campaigned on Sanders’ behalf in Portsmouth in January. (“Secretary Clinton, we wish you Godspeed in the fight that now looms,” McKibben said.) Next came Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America, which had previously endorsed Sanders for president.

Both Sanders and Clinton outlined common ground on a number of campaign issues, including raising the minimum wage, reforming tax policy, eliminating student debt, expanding social security, and overhauling the campaign finance system.

“These are fights we have to wage and win together,” Clinton said.


Sanders said there was a “significant coming together between the two campaigns” during the Democratic Platform Committee meeting that ended Sunday in Orlando.

“We introduced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” he said to applause.

Both Sanders and Clinton also stressed the dangers Trump presents and implored voters not to let him get elected.

Clinton thanked Sanders’ supporters and noted that the two of them had run “a campaign about issues, not insults.”

“I’m asking you to stand with us,” Clinton said. “You will always have a seat at the table when I am in the White House.”

United or divided?
For some Sanders supporters, the specter of a Trump presidency is enough to get them in Clinton’s corner come November.

Others, though, have vowed to support Green Party candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Still others have said they will write in Sanders.

Following the event in Portsmouth, Sanders supporter Keith Yergeau of Bedford said he would not support Clinton.

“I’m voting for Jill Stein. Now that (Sanders is) withdrawing, I can say that with confidence,” Yergeau said. “(Clinton is) just not a candidate who I think represents me. She represents the special interests that she so happily denounces.”

Sanders supporter Lyn Maravell of Saco, Maine, said she is now leaning toward voting for Johnson, who is also the preferred candidate of some anti-Trump Republicans. But she said Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton does not alter her favorable opinion of Sanders.

“Honestly, I believe he’s positioning himself well for when Hillary crashes and burns,” she said.

Around the time of the event, The Sound posted a question on Facebook asking people whether Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton affected how they would vote in November. The responses were mixed.

“I voted for Bernie in the primary. I will vote for Hillary in the general election,” said Jason Boucher of Portsmouth. “It’s all about unity and standing up to Trump, who could potentially destroy the world — no exaggeration.”


Boucher cited a number of Republican initiatives that both Clinton and Sanders oppose. “She’s not perfect,” he said of Clinton, “but consider the alternative.”

Tom Holbrook, owner of RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, agreed.

“For anyone interested in Human Rights — for women, minorities, the underserved — the next president will be appointing several Supreme Court justices,” Holbrook said. “To me, this is more important than everything else.”

But Megan Stelzer of Exeter is not convinced. She said she would probably vote for Stein, although she is still considering writing in Sanders. Other commenters argued that a third-party vote would only help Trump, but Stelzer was not persuaded.

“I can’t let myself be swayed by the fear stuff anymore,” she said. “That’s how we’ve gotten here. Endless war. Environmental catastrophe.”

Despite the occasional friction at the event in Portsmouth, the loudest cheers came when Clinton and Sanders pledged to work together. The next big show of unity will come at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 25-28.