CONCORD, N.H. — Sen. Bernie Sanders swept through New Hampshire on Sunday, making his first stops as a 2020 presidential candidate in the state that established him as a force in Democratic politics in 2016 — and could play an outsize role in his ambitions next year.
“This is where the political revolution took off,” Sanders said to a crowd of several hundred who braved a snowstorm to see him in Concord. “Thank you.”
Sanders hopes to recapture that spirit, and those votes, in his second presidential bid. He won the New Hampshire primary by a whopping 22 percentage points last time, and his path to the Democratic nomination in 2020 would be blunted if he is unable to post a second strong showing.
The Vermont independent’s two rallies on Sunday were throwbacks to the events he became known for in 2016, which included several hundred supporters and featured Sanders speaking for over an hour and cycling through his favorite topics, including income inequality and the high costs of prescription drugs.
Sanders took no questions from voters or the media attending the events. He paused only briefly after each stop to pose for photos with a few supporters who muscled their way to the candidate.
In contrast to his formal announcement eight days earlier, Sanders only lightly touched on his biography at stops, another similarity with 2016.
In Keene, speaking to a crowd of several hundred seated in an auditorium, he drew a contrast between himself and Trump, saying that the president was born rich, while Sanders grew up in a working-class family, which lived paycheck to paycheck and allotted him a weekly allowance of just 25 cents.
“I know where I came from, and that’s a reality I will never forget,” Sanders said.
He invoked his grandchildren, some of whom live in New Hampshire, when talking about the need to address climate change and reduce the cost of higher education.
He also showed the occasional flash of humor as he explained his goals.
“When we talk about ‘Us, not me’ it’s not a bumper sticker,” Sanders said. He paused a beat and added: “Although it might become a bumper sticker.”
Sanders’s ability in 2016 to move the Democratic Party toward his positions was central to his arguments Sunday. His ideas, he said, were considered “radical and extreme” two years ago, but now the party largely has embraced increasing the minium wage to $15 an hour, reducing the costs of college tuition and pushing universal health care.
Sanders in 2016 lamented his opponent Hillary Clinton’s connections with the Democratic establishment, but this time his allies have gained more influence within those circles. In elections Saturday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party voted two of his prominent 2016 supporters to the organization’s rules committee.
The Sanders campaign announced that their New Hampshire state director will be Joe Caiazzo, who worked in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for Sanders in the 2016 primary and was Clinton’s Rhode Island state director for the general election.
Carli Stevenson, another veteran of the Sanders 2016 campaign, will be his communications director in the state.
The 2016 campaign was still very much on Sanders’s mind Sunday. He recounted how the New Hampshire win catapulted him to victory in 21 additional states, leading him to win 13 million votes.
“Most importantly,” Sanders said, he won “more votes from young people, black, and white and Latino, Asian American and Native American than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined.”
He also claimed credit for successfully pushing the Democratic Party to reduce the influence of superdelegates, party officials who in 2016 were largely supportive of Hillary Clinton.
The last election also was on the minds of some Sanders supporters: T-shirts for sale in Concord showed Sanders’s frowning face with the phrase: “Hindsight is 2020,” a message to those who might regret not supporting him last time. A woman who introduced Sanders at the Concord rally won applause when she held one up to the crowd, but a Sanders spokeswoman later said the T-shirts were not officially approved.
“I just worry that the DNC is going to rob him again,” Nicholas Shaw of Concord said before watching Sanders speak. He was referring to accusations that the Democratic National Committee tilted debate rules toward Clinton.
Shaw said Sanders is his “number one” choice because of what he sees as an unimpeachable anti-corporate message.
“To me, Bernie is just spotless,” he said.