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On the Stump: Bernie Sanders at Dartmouth

AP/John Minchillo
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at Dartmouth College on January 14th.

In the final week of the New Hampshire presidential primary, NHPR is taking a closer listen to how some of the candidates are pitching themselves to the state's voters – through their standard stump speech. We've taken a few key moments in a recent speech and marked up the sound in each clip - just click listen to see them roll out. 

Here's an annotated recording of a recent speech by Democrat Bernie Sanders, delivered January 14, 2016 at Dartmouth's Spaulding Auditorium. (You can hear the full speech using the player at the bottom of this story.)

Sanders opens with his central campaign themes: that he’s the underdog, the outsider, the anti-establishment candidate in the Democratic race. It's a theme that may prove especially attractive to New Hampshire's independent voters, among whom Sanders polls particularly well. He also reminds his audience that, at least for now, he’s on top in New Hampshire, running ahead Hillary Clinton.

This might be the issue voters most identify with Sanders: that he’s the toughest fighter against what he calls the "corrupt billionaire class." And the best example of this fight is his reliance on individual, small donors in funding his campaign. Note also the implicit contrast to his rivals, in his reference to other candidates “sitting down in mansions with billionaires.”

Throughout the speech, Sanders repeatedly refers to his campaign in the first-person plural – “we,” “our campaign” – creating a sense of shared effort and vision between him and his audience. His subjects here are similarly inclusive, referencing people of all races, genders, religions, and sexual orientation.

Also, this is the first time in the speech that Sanders references another candidate by name. Interestingly: it’s not any of his Democratic opponents, but rather Republican Donald Trump.

Sanders’ remarks are interrupted here by a smattering of applause when he mentions Vermont, his home state. The Dartmouth speech, of course, took place just across the Connecticut River from Vermont. It’s a reminder that, if Sanders ends up winning the New Hampshire primary, it will be due in large part to his neighborly status.

Sanders takes several minutes to discuss his views on police and criminal justice reform, including his desire to decriminalize marijuana. Earlier in the presidential campaign, Sanders came under scrutiny from justice reform advocates, particularly members of the Black Lives Matter movement, because of perceptions that he was insufficiently sensitive to racial inequalities.

When discussing paid family leave here, Sanders makes the first personal reference of the speech, mentioning his wife by name, as well as his children and grandchildren. But it’s a brief tangent, and Sanders quickly shifts back to policy matters.

Another one of Sanders’ core priorities: the corrupting influence of money on American elections. It’s another way for Sanders to underscore his independence, as well as the fact that he’s the only candidate in the presidential race without a SuperPAC spending money on his behalf.

This is the final pitch of the speech, and Sanders' entire candidacy in a nutshell: wage inequality, universal health care, college debt, campaign finance, climate change. Notably, Sanders also pivots into this final stanza with a brief, and rare, personal reference – this time to his father, a Polish immigrant who arrived in the U.S. with little money or education. But unlike many candidates, this personal history plays a small role in Sander's appeal to voters. 

Listen to Sanders' Dartmouth stump speech in its entirety:

Dan is NHPR's news director.

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