First on CNN: Sanders snags key endorsement in New Hampshire

Updated 12:20 PM EDT, Sat July 4, 2015
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Story highlights

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic activist Dudley Dudley told CNN Friday that she has decided to endorse Bernie Sanders for the Democratic 2016 nomination.

Her decision comes less than two months after she hosted former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley at both her Durham, New Hampshire homes.

(CNN) —  

Sen. Bernie Sanders has snagged a key endorsement in New Hampshire that may sting a little for Martin O’Malley’s campaign.

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic activist Dudley Dudley told CNN Friday that she has decided to endorse Bernie Sanders for the Democratic 2016 nomination. Her decision comes less than two months after she hosted O’Malley at both her Durham, New Hampshire homes.

Since then, according to a recent CNN/WMUR New Hampshire primary poll, frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s lead over Sanders has shrunk from 38 percentage points to 8, with O’Malley trailing both. Likely Democratic primary voters are now more apt to see Sanders as the candidate who “best represents the values of Democrats like yourself,” the poll found.

Sanders recently finished a two-day swing through the state that saw 500-person crowds and high attendance at more intimate house parties.

Dudley told CNN she was won over by Sanders focus on money in politics, but was particularly impressed by his style of delivering his message.

“He’s very believable. A lot of people seem to say a lot of things that don’t come to pass. I feel that he is compelling and trustworthy and I’m hoping that he will get the nomination,” Dudley told CNN. “I particularly like what he has to say about Citizens United, about the need to have a more just tax system in this country, and to even out the income inequality. He has a way of stating it in a way that is no nonsense and so straight forward.”

Sanders’ campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs told CNN, “We are very grateful and appreciate the support from such a key figure in New Hampshire.”

O’Malley’s camp declined to comment on the endorsement.

As a state executive councilor in the 1970s, Dudley was the highest serving woman in the state’s history. She also gained a reputation as a grassroots activist when she led a successful effort to stop the building of an oil refinery off the coast of New Hampshire.

During a house party on May 13, Dudley spoke positively about O’Malley, but told reporters after that event that while she opened her home, she was not ready to endorse.

O’Malley returned the kind words for Dudley and spent a considerable amount of time wooing the Democratic activists. In addition to the event, O’Malley filmed key portions of his announcement video at Dudley’s house.

Dudley said Friday that her Sanders endorsement is not so much about what other Democratic candidates are lacking, but about how Sanders has differentiated himself in the field.

“It wasn’t in opposition to them. I’m just feeling that I like the way Sanders presents himself and puts his points of view,” Dudley told CNN.

Dudley acknowledges that Sanders’ road to the White House, let alone the Democratic nomination, will not be easy.

“Neither (race) is going to be a cakewalk, but I think that his stamina and energy and points of view will carry him through,” she said.

Dudley has had mixed success in endorsements over the years. In 2008, she supported Barack Obama in the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary, but in 1992 she supported Paul Tsongas over Bill Clinton, and in 1980, she spearheaded an unsuccessful challenge to incumbent President Jimmy Carter with a write-in campaign for Ted Kennedy.

CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.