By KATHLEEN RONAYNE
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — One day after raising $1.5 million in donations, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was out to convince supporters in the early voting state of New Hampshire on Saturday he could raise the $40 million to $50 million to run a competitive presidential primary campaign against Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“The question to me is not whether we can raise as much money as our opponents — we can’t — the question is whether we can raise enough money to run a strong, credible and winning campaign,” Sanders said. “And based on this first day I believe that we can.”
Sanders, an independent, announced Thursday that he’ll run in the Democratic presidential primary, making him Clinton’s first official primary opponent. A self-described “democratic socialist,” Sanders plans to focus his message heavily on income inequality, climate change and reforming the campaign finance system. After addressing supporters at a house party, he spoke Saturday afternoon to the New Hampshire chapter of the AFL-CIO.
Sanders could fill a void to Clinton’s left that has some Democrats clamoring for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to get into the race. Warren has said she has no plans to run. Diane St. Germain, a New Hampshire voter, said she hopes Sanders’ entrance into the race pushes Clinton to the left.
“If this does nothing but do that for Hillary, that would cause me to possibly consider her,” St. Germain said.
For voter Patrick McLaughlin, Sanders’ initial fundraising haul despite his relatively low name recognition shows that there is enough support to make him a viable candidate. Sanders said more than 100,000 people signed up to support his candidacy in the first 24 hours and his $1.5 million in donations came from 35,000 people. A Sanders spokesman said his fundraising total had reached $2.1 million by Saturday afternoon.
“The money is there if (people) hear somebody standing up for what they believe they need, what we need,” McLaughlin said.
As Sanders spoke to a full living room Saturday, at least a dozen people also stood outside in the lawn, listening through the window. Sanders received loud applause when he called for a need to take elections back from millionaires and billionaires.
He did not take questions from the crowd following his remarks but did mingle briefly with supporters in the backyard. The event was markedly different than Clinton’s recent trip to the state, where she largely spoke at small roundtables in front of invited crowds.
“We don’t do focus groups, we don’t do polling,” Sanders said. “These are our people.”
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