Jul 12, 2016 3:35 PM
NH1 News Political Director
PORTSMOUTH – They were the words Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Democratic Party leaders had waited more than a month to hear.
On Tuesday, they heard them.
“Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination and I congratulate her for that,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said at a joint rally with his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. “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 of the United States.”
“I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president,” Sanders added, as he ended his more than yearlong battle against Clinton for the nomination, a marathon showdown that turned contentious.
Sanders teamed up with Clinton at the jam-packed gymnasium at Portsmouth High School just three days after securing numerous concessions as the Democratic Party’s national platform was finalized at a major party meeting in Orlando, Florida.
Sanders touted the platform, saying “we produced by far the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”
While Sanders stated that “it is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues,” he added that “Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here today.”
And he pledged that “I intend to be in every corner of this country to make certain that happens.”
The appearance was the first either by Sanders and Clinton in New Hampshire since the senator from Vermont topped the former U.S. Secretary of State by 22 percentage points in the February 9 primary, which launched Sanders into a battle with Clinton that lasted through the end of the primary calendar in early June. And the moment of unity came just 13 days shy of the start of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Clinton: ‘We are stronger together’
After waiting for half an a hour by his side while Sanders addressed the crowd, Clinton embraced her former rival and they raised their arms in unity.
Clinton then told the audience that “being here with him (Sanders) in New Hampshire, I can’t help but reflect how much more enjoyable this election is going to be now that we are on the same side.”
Reaching out to Sanders supporters, Clinton said “this is a time for all of us to be standing together, adding that “we are stronger together.”
“To every one of the millions of Americans across the country who poured your hearts and souls into Sen. Sanders’ campaign, thank you,” Clinton continued.
And she vowed to middle and low income Americans that “you will always have a seat at the table when I am in the White House.”
Throughout her remarks, Clinton highlighted many of the causes Sanders’ pushed during his campaign. She vowed to oppose free-trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, fight to increase the federal minimum wage, and overhaul the campaign finance system.
“These aren’t just my fights. These are Bernie’s fights. These are America’s fights,” Clinton said.
Will Sanders supporters back Clinton?
Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, two longtime Clinton backers, spoke in advance of Sanders. Both were briefly heckled by Sanders supporters in the crowd. And chants of “Bernie” broke out in the gym, which prompted the Clinton faithful to respond with chants of “unity” and “Hillary.”
After Sanders concluded his address, NH1 News spotted around a dozen Sanders supporters leaving the gym as Clinton began her remarks.
The big question going forward is whether Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton will draw his supporter to her side in the November general election against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Former longtime state Sen. Burt Cohen, a Seacoast resident who was a top surrogate for Sanders in New Hampshire, told NH1 News prior to the start of the rally that “it’s going to take a while” for the wounds between the two camps to heal.
Asked about the Clinton campaign’s efforts in New Hampshire to reach out to Sanders supporters, Cohen said “we do need to unify but they could be reaching out a heck of a lot better. They need us. They really need us.”
But Cohen added on a positive note that “there’s a lot of difference between policy but what I’m really glad to see is the unity that Hillary seems to be finally endorsing Bernie’s agenda.”
Following the rally Sanders supporter Paula Iasclla told NH1 News “no sir” when asked whether she would now support Clinton. She raised the Clinton email scandal as a reason why she won’t back Clinton. But she said she could “never” vote for Trump.
But Sanders’ supporter Lauren Lynch she’ll now vote for Clinton.
“We’re going to be working hard like he (Sanders) asked us to,” she said.
Her friend Anne Dicicco, who also backed Sanders, she she’ll also now vote for Clinton “because I believe that what’s at risk is greater, that what she said, greater than one candidate or one campaign. And the risk that we’re facing from the GOP is just too great., and we all have to pull together.”
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