Sanders asks supporters to vote for Clinton
MINNEAPOLIS --It is a month before the presidential election and not all Minnesota Democrats are fully behind Hillary Clinton.
Minnesotans embraced U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders when picking a presidential favorite last March, and on Tuesday, Oct. 4, he asked those supporters to back his former rival. But he did not win over everyone during Minneapolis and Duluth visits.
Recent University of Minnesota Duluth graduate Josh Muhich, 23, captured what likely brought out most of the Duluth crowd Tuesday night.
"I'm more for Bernie than Hillary, but Hillary's better than Trump," he said.
Another person in the Duluth crowd said Sanders moved her toward Clinton.
"Prior to his speech here I was a Bernie supporter; I was undecided if I was going to vote," said Andrea Debungie, 33, who came with her family to the rally at the University of Minnesota Duluth. "Seeing him here does encourage me to vote for (Clinton)."
She still wasn't ready to fully commit even after Sanders spent half an hour painting Clinton as his equal on progressive policies. Neither was Simon Puder.
"He definitely made a strong argument," said Puder, a 26-year-old Northland College student who came from Ashland, Wis., to listen to Sanders. "I'm fairly sure I'm going to vote for Clinton. I also believe I should vote for my ideals and values."
Sanders urged an energetic crowd on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus to "do everything you can to make certain that Hillary Clinton is the next president," then he headed to the university's Duluth campus with the same message to Democratic voters.
Sanders sought to direct his supporters toward issues, not personalities, and to bring their excitement to Clinton.
"I speak only for myself: I got a little bit tired of hearing about personality, and 'We don't like Hillary.' 'We don't like Trump.' Let's focus on the real issues facing the American people," Sanders said.
The Vermont U.S. senator listed Republican Donald Trump's attributes to elicit boos and Clinton's policy positions to bring forth cheers.
Despite a lead in most national and Minnesota polls, Clinton has struggled. Young people, who gave Sanders massive support, have been slow to back the Democratic presidential nominee. In Democratic-leaning northern Minnesota, which gave the vast majority of their votes to Sanders in the March caucuses, there's a tight contest between Trump and Clinton.
Asked his thoughts about those who feel his Clinton support was a betrayal, Sanders told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that people were entitled to their opinions, but he disagreed.
"I'm sure the overwhelming majority of people understand that it is absolutely imperative we do everything we can to defeat Donald Trump," Sanders said in a brief interview. "I'm sure there's some people who will disagree with me. That's politics, that's democracy. I respect that. But I would also hope that people think hard about what America will look like if Donald Trump is elected."
Sanders said he believes that new voters have been turned off by the negativity of the campaign.
"What Secretary Clinton has got to do, and I know she's tried to do, and sometimes the media is not cooperative, is talk about real issues," Sanders said. "The main point I tried to make today is if you look at the issues facing the middle class and working families, no doubt in my mind that Secretary Clinton is far, far, far away the superior candidate."
A Trump spokesman said that millennial voters are deserting Clinton.
"What a surprise, with polls showing support for Hillary in the basement with millennial voters, her campaign sends Bernie Sanders to Minnesota to manufacture a portrait of enthusiasm for her candidacy," Andy Post said.
The undecided or perhaps unmotivated voters could prove a challenge to Clinton's chances in crucial states.
"Democrats are so worried about Hillary that they're making Sanders come to Minnesota today to try to explain to the 62 percent of Democrats who voted for him at caucuses exactly why he sold out," the state Republican Party said in a statement Tuesday.
Unlike in battleground states, neither Clinton nor Trump has had large public rallies in Minnesota. Trump visited Minnesota in August for a fundraiser but has not come back since. Clinton herself has not been in the state in recent months either.
Sanders' two Minnesota visits were to areas in which congressmen seeking re-election supported College students dominated the Duluth crowd, but there were people of all ages.
"The line has been full of different majors, a really diverse group," said Shelby Chmielecki, 22, a student at the College of St. Scholastica and part of the Nolan campaign. "Bernie Sanders brings out diversity."
Rachel Stassen-Berger of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Forum News Service reporter Brooks Johnson contributed to this story. The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.