HARTFORD — After five straight days of campaigning across the Northeast, the delegate frenzy that had four of the five remaining presidential candidates crisscrossing Connecticut from Stamford to Glastonbury finally subsided Monday, on the west bank of the Connecticut River in Hartford.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the last candidate scheduled to appear in the state, had the final word with Connecticut voters before Tuesday’s primary during his second appearance in the Nutmeg State. The Democratic presidential candidate spoke in front of a crowd about 2,000 people Monday morning, as recent polling shows a tightening race.
Fresh off his rally in New Haven Sunday night, estimated to have drawn 14,000 people, Sanders once again called on his supporters to continue the “political revolution” that began last summer.
“Here’s the point of this campaign: We do not have to accept the status quo,” Sanders said. “We do not have to step over people sleeping out on the streets. We do not have to accept the fact that, here in this great city of Hartford, almost 50 percent of the children are living in poverty.”
The smaller – but hardly subdued – crowd came out on an overcast and mild day, backing up traffic on I-84 during morning rush hour.
While the venue may have changed from the previous night, the candidate’s message stayed the same. Sanders reiterated the central premise of his campaign at the outset of the speech – creating “an economy that works for all people.”
Sanders railed against “the billionaire class” and the concentration of wealth in the United States. He said the wealthiest Americans are thriving in “a rigged economy,” necessitating changes at the federal level to ensure opportunity for all.
“Here’s a not-so-radical idea,” Sanders said. “Maybe we should starting investing in jobs for our young people rather than in jails and incarceration for our young people. I’d rather have our young people in a classroom than a jail cell. I’d rather have them out working, making good money, rather than seeing their minds rotting away in jail.”
The crowd cheered with each line. Then Sanders stuck the landing.
“Can we do it? You’re damn right we can.”
The crowd went wild.
Sanders blasted trade deals established in the last two decades that he said were responsible for shipping thousands of jobs from states like Connecticut and Vermont out of the country to Mexico and China. He said his administration would enact policies that would push corporations to bring jobs back to America.
Sanders also decried the state of mental health programs in the country and challenged Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to rethink his recent cuts to the state’s social services, especially the mental health programs.
Compromise cannot be an option, Sanders said. He said settling for a less ambitious agenda, which he contends his opponent Hillary Clinton is proposing, would result in even less being accomplished.
“The establishment wants to think is real change is not possible, that you’re just crazy dreamers if you think that we can transform this country in a substantive way, that what you have got to accept is half a loaf, or a quarter of a loaf,” Sanders said. “You know what I say? If you accept half a loaf, what you’re going to end up with is crumbs.”
While Sanders held two rallies in the state, they both came after Clinton made more than a half-dozen campaign stops between Thursday and Sunday. Clinton held her final public event in the state Sunday afternoon at the University of Bridgeport. She has surrogates, including former President Bill Clinton, continuing to campaign in the state Monday.
Clinton and Sanders are competing for 384 delegates up for grabs in five Northeastern states set to vote on Tuesday. Connecticut has 71 pledged delegates at stake.
A Public Policy Polling survey released Monday found Sanders only trailed Clinton in Connecticut by 2 percent, which is within the margin of error. Clinton received 48 percent support from the state’s Democrats while Sanders received 46 percent.