KENOSHA, Wis. (CN) – Sen. Bernie Sanders sought to tie major plant closings in Wisconsin to trade policies supported by Hillary Clinton as he barnstormed across the state on Wednesday.
Sanders, coming off a string of primary and caucus victories, remains 248 delegates behind the Democratic frontrunner.
If he can best Clinton in The Badger State, which holds its primary on April 5, the Vermont senator believes he’ll have the momentum to press her in New York, where she was a popular senator and where voters will go to the polls in three weeks.
During his rallies in Wisconsin, Sanders pointed to Milwaukee’s loss of its Johnson Controls plant, the closure of Janesville’s General Motors plant, and other businesses shedding jobs as byproducts of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he opposed and Clinton has supported.
But Clinton wasn’t Sanders’ only target during Kenosha town hall meeting Wednesday morning, the third of candidate’s four scheduled appearance in Wisconsin ahead of the primary.
Appearing before a diverse, capacity crowd at the Tarble Athletic and Recreation Center at Carthage College, Sanders also jabbed at the state’s “cowardly” Republican governor, Scott Walker.
Walker is just one politician, Sanders said, to use voter ID and other legislation to suppress votes for their opponents.
“I say to those cowardly governors, ‘If you can’t stand up and win in a free and open and fair election, get out of politics,'” Sanders said. “Get another job.'”
The status quo and “rigged economy” were in Sanders’ crosshairs throughout his speech, and he encouraged individual “grassroots” involvement in his campaign.
He also sought to contrast himself from Clinton by reminding the audience of his refusal to accept money from super PACs.
Sanders has collected more than 6 million individual contributions, he told the crowd, at an average of $27 each.
“This issue of where you get your money is extremely important, because it determines who you are beholden to,” Sanders said to loud applause. “I am proud to be beholden to people who send me a check for $27, and I am proud not to be beholden to the drug companies or Wall Street or the fossil fuel industry.”
Sanders also called for criminal justice reform, refinancing of student loan debt, single-payer guaranteed healthcare and tuition-free college, receiving perhaps the loudest cheers for his statements in support of LGBT and women’s rights, including the right to abortion.
This stance won him the support of Aileen Krueger, of Mukwonago, Wis., who said she arrived at the event unsure which of two Democratic candidates would get her vote.
Krueger said she will vote for Clinton in the general election if Sanders fails to secure the nomination, but as far as the primary is concerned, the senators statements on the economy put him ahead of his opponent in her mind.
Though Sanders’ supporters were the loud majority, Krueger wasn’t the only one not “feeling the Bern” right away.
A small group displayed a large banner reading “Animal Liberation Now” and stood up and shouted “Hey, Senator Sanders! You suck!” as he spoke.
Meanwhile, several of the senators reporters chanted “Bernie” to drown them out.
Sanders ignored the protestors, and kept talking until the people were led away by security.
Far more typical of those in attendance Wednesday morning was Marsha Peterson, who said she didn’t have to be convinced to support the senator.
“I like what he stands for,” Peterson said, adding that she has supported him from the start. “He stands for the people, not for the corporations, not for the rich.”
Sanders is competing with Clinton in Wisconsin for 86 pledged delegates and 10 superdelegates.
A national poll conducted by Bloomberg News March 19-22 showed Clinton ahead by only a single percentage point.
Across the country, the Emerson poll places Clinton ahead of Sanders by 6 points, 50 percent to 44 percent, and a Real Clear Politics average of several polls places Clinton ahead by 9 percent.
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