CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CN) – Fresh off a stop in New Hampshire, where the nation’s first primary will be held, Bernie Sanders on Tuesday visited the backyard of Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren in an attempt to woo voters in Massachusetts.
In a small, invite-only meeting for 2016 and 2020 campaign volunteers, Sanders took questions from supporters in Club Passim, a tightly-packed, basement-level restaurant within walking distance of Harvard University.
Sanders spoke about reducing health care costs, supporting labor unions, changing the Democratic primary process, criminal justice reform and the Green New Deal.
He said he supports a plan to expand Medicare coverage for all Americans and vowed to fight to reduce the cost of prescription medication.
“How obscene is it that one in five families can’t afford the medication they are prescribed?” the Vermont senator asked.
Sanders also explained that after he was unable to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016, in part because of her support from superdelegates – party leaders and elected officials who get a say in the nomination – he and his supporters were able to push changes in the Democratic primary process so that superdelegates will not be able to vote in the first round of voting at the national convention.
When asked about his opinion on mandatory sentencing, Sanders pivoted to a broader discussion on criminal justice reform. He said he plans to ban privately owned prisons and push for bail reform.
“It seems to me to make a lot more sense to spend money on jobs and education than incarceration,” he said.
Nichole Mossalam volunteered for the Sanders campaign in 2016. She was among the dozens of people who were invited to the event.
“We live in critically important times,” she said. “I have three children. I have to make sure we leave something for them that is better than we had.”
Solomon Steed, who served as an alternate delegate for Sanders in 2016, was not surprised by anything the candidate spoke about at the event.
“Bernie Sanders is one of the most disciplined messengers in the Democratic Party,” he said.
Steed said he was looking forward to seeing how Sanders’ policy on immigration develops, since he expects immigration to be a major issue in the general election.
After lightly volunteering for Sanders in 2016 while still in college, Stephanie Johnson is looking forward to taking a more active role in campaigning this time around. On Saturday, she plans to co-host one of over 400 planned campaigning events for Sanders across the country.
“I think that what struck me was how genuine and authentic he was when talking about working class families,” she said.
With only 114 Democratic delegates out of a national total of 4,532, Massachusetts tends to serve as more of a pit stop for candidates going to or from New Hampshire.
The Granite State only comes with 33 delegates, but the primary will be held on Feb. 11, 2020 making it the first primary in the nation, so the winner gets both delegates and an immediate boost of momentum to their candidacy.
The Massachusetts primary will be held on Super Tuesday – March 3, 2020.
Former Vice President Joe Biden visited Massachusetts last week for a photo opportunity with striking workers from Stop N’ Shop, a New England-based grocery chain, following an earlier visit from Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic presidential hopeful.
Three in four Democrats in New Hampshire are undecided in the primary, according to a poll released Monday. The poll conducted from April 10-18 surveyed 549 New Hampshire residents, including 208 Republicans and 241 Democrats.
Of those who are decided, 30% said they support Sanders, followed by Biden with 18% and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 15%.
On the national level, a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday shows Biden leading with 27% of Democratic voters, with Sanders in second at 20%.
Senator Kamala Harris of California and Buttigieg were tied in third with 8%.