Transcript of the CNN Democratic Town Hall in New Hampshire on Feb. 3, 2016.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening, everyone.
What a night here in the nation’s first presidential primary state, one town hall (INAUDIBLE) on the two remaining Democrats and the questions voters want answered before making their choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, the presidential race is more competitive than ever. And the Democrats are here, in New Hampshire, to face the voters again.
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am so thrilled that I’m coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we have a path toward victory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s down to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – just two candidates on one stage, taking questions from the people of this battleground state on issues that hit close to home.
CLINTON: I am excited about really getting into the debate with Senator Sanders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their differences are real and the stakes are soaring just days before the second crucial contest of 2016.
SANDERS: Millions of people come together and say loudly and clearly, enough is enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a CNN Democratic town hall event, a chance for voters to try to debate with decision day around the corner.
SANDERS: Democracy is not a spectator sport.
CLINTON: New Hampshire, the eyes of the world are going to be on you again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Hampshire is choosing. The Democrats are in the spotlight. And they’re making their pitches to voters right now.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: And good evening from the historic Derry Opera House in downtown Derry, New Hampshire.
We are here tonight with just six days to go until primary day. Just six days left to decide, yet many voters remain undecided.
So tonight, Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are here with the people of the state and the country for a conversation.
I want to welcome our viewers in the United States, in New Hampshire, around the world. We’re being seen on CNN, CNN En Espanol, CNN International.
I also want to extend a warm welcome to our service men and women who are watching on the American Forces network and to those who are listening on the Westwood One Radio Network and on CNN Channel 116 on Sirius XM.
In the audience here in Derry, New Hampshire, people who tell us they will be participating in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, which means registered Democrats or Independents. Some have already made up their minds. Others still trying to decide whom to vote for.
The clock is ticking, guys.
We asked audience members to come up with their own questions, which we – we’ve reviewed to make sure they don’t overlap. I’ll ask some questions, as well. But tonight is really about the voters getting to know the candidates.
So, let’s get started.
Up first tonight, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
COOPER: Thanks for joining us.
SANDERS: Good to see you.
SANDERS: Good to be with you.
COOPER: – you have had, obviously, quite a few days. It’s been quite a – quite a whirlwind for you. I understand your campaigned – the campaign says you’ve raised at least $3 million since – since Iowa.
I’m wondering out there, in New Hampshire today, what are you feeling?
What sort of momentum?
Are you feeling the Bern?
SANDERS: We’re feeling great.
SANDERS: Yes, I am, now that you ask. We’re feeling really great. I think the message that we are bringing forth is resonating with the American people. And you talked about money. One of the things that has happened in our campaign, Anderson, which has blown me away, it really has, is we have received three and a half million individual contributions. That is more than any candidate in the history of the United States up until this point.
And you know what the average contribution is?
COOPER: Twenty-seven dollars.
SANDERS: Hey, you heard.
COOPER: Ah, good.
SANDERS: And that’s pretty – and in a day of super PACs, where people are raising huge amounts of money from Wall Street and the drug companies, the fact that millions of individual contributions from working people and the middle class, who want us to go forward and to transform this country in very significant ways is very moving to me.
COOPER: I’m just going to ask a couple of questions then we’re really going to get it over to – to the audience.
There is an expectations game being played. And we’ve been seeing this from both campaigns in New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton keeps – campaign keeps pointing to the fact that you’re from a neighboring state…
COOPER: – that you’re way up in the polls.
Are you still an underdog?
SANDERS: Of course we’re an underdog. We are taking on the most powerful political organization in the country. And that’s, you know, the Clinton organization. Secretary Clinton obviously ran here in 2008 and she won. Her husband ran here several times before that.
So this is her fourth campaign in that family here in New Hampshire.
It is clear that many people in New Hampshire do know me, because I come from a neighboring state. And
SANDERS: Her husband ran here several times before that. So this is her fourth campaign in that family here in New Hampshire.
It is clear that many people in New Hampshire do know me because I come from a neighboring state. And I think we have support because people over the years have seen the work that I am doing in standing up for working families and the middle class.
But in general, we started this campaign nationally, as you well know, 40-50 points behind Sec. Clinton. We had no money. We had no organization. And we had relatively little name recognition. I think it’s fair to say we have come a pretty long way in the last nine months.
COOPER: You are – I mean according to the latest I think CNN poll you’re up some 23 points some people say or believe here in New Hampshire. Obviously we know polls can get it wrong. How do you not underperform here? Because there is an expectation…
SANDERS: That’s the media game. That’s what media talks about. Who cares?
The point is underperform – the point is we are going to work as hard as we can to win. And after we do hopefully well here we’re going to go onto Nevada and then South Carolina and do as well as we can all over this country.
I got to say, all due respect, that’s media stuff. Over – you know I think some of these polls…
COOPER: You don’t look at polls, your campaign?
SANDERS: Sure we do. But some of these polls are off the charts. We’re not – I mean I think this is going to be a very close election here in New Hampshire.
COOPER: There’s been some back and forth on the campaign trail today about is Hillary Clinton a progressive. We’re going to get to that later on because we’ve got some questions from the audience about that, and some other questions.
But Sen. Barbara Boxer, a supporter of Clinton, came back, fired back basically at your campaign today, at you, saying of course Hillary Clinton is progressive and asked you know – said that Bernie Sanders is a Democrat on some days. You had said that Hillary Clinton is a progressive on some days. Is that fair? Because there are some Democrats who – I mean in your heart are you a Democrat?
SANDERS: Sure. I have made a decision to run for the Democratic nomination to be president of the United States. I was for 16 years in the House Democratic Caucus, for nine years in the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Right now I am the ranking member of the Budget Committee, appointed by the Democratic leadership and membership. A couple of years ago I was very proudly the chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee. So of course I am a Democrat and running for the Democratic nomination.
In terms of Sec. Clinton, I know the media is kind of making a big deal about this. All that I said, which is simply true, is I think it was in November in Ohio. You may recall this.
SANDERS: I don’t know the context of it, but Sec. Clinton said some people call me a – paraphrasing, some people call me a moderate. And I proudly say that I am a moderate. That’s what she said.
So all I said you can’t go and say you’re a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day. Some of my best friends are moderates. I love moderates. But you can’t be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.
COOPER: We’ll talk a little bit more about that. But I want to go to our audience. Our first guest Chris Brunel (ph), he’s an office administrator in Nashua. He said he’s leading toward supporting you, but he’s got some questions about your tax policies.
QUESTION: Sen. Sanders, the first thing I hear about you is that you’re going to raise taxes on the middle class. I support my family on a salary of $41,000 a year. I’m wondering if you raise my taxes, how does that help me?
SANDERS: Could I stand up?
COOPER: You can do whatever you want.
Chris, thanks very much for that good question. This is what we are going to do.
The United States is the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people. And we end up spending far, far more per capita on health care as do the people of any other country: Canada, U.K., France, whatever.
What we are going to fight for is a Medicare for All single payer program, which would provide comprehensive health care to your family and every family in America.
So let me tell you what we do. We raise your taxes if you’re somewhere in the middle of the economy about $500. But you know what we’re going to do for health care? We’re going to reduce your health care costs by $5,000.
So you’re going to pay a little bit more in taxes. But you’re no longer going to have to pay private health insurance premiums.
Now, I’ve been criticized for this. But I believe that health care is a right of all people, that we should not have these deductibles and copayments. We should not be paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. And our Medicare for All program will guarantee comprehensive care to all people, and save middle class families some thousands of dollars a year.
COOPER: Chris, let me just ask you. Does that math work for you?
QUESTION: I mean if it saves me on health insurance premiums I will gladly pay more taxes.
SANDERS: See. And, Chris, what happens in politics – I don’t want to shock anybody in the office. Sometimes people distort things. I mean I’ve had 30-second ads run against me. “Bernie is going to raise your taxes.” But they forget to say we’re going to do away with your private health insurance premiums.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She attacks us. But they forget to say we’re going to do away with your private health insurance premiums. Bottom line here is we spend almost three times more per person than the British, 50 percent more than the French. We can save substantial sums of money, and my Medicare for all system is funded in a very progressive way. Yes, you’ll pay a little bit more, but your health premiums will disappear.
ANDERSON COOPER: That’s assuming you can get that through, though.
SANDERS: Well, that’s – you know, that’s true. But all of what I am trying to do assumes something. When I talk about making public colleges and universities tuition free, and doing that and paying for that through a tax on Wall Street speculation. When I talk about rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, which as you know is in disrepair all over this country, and talk about doing away with huge loopholes that major corporations now enjoy – so that in a given year you have these large corporations making billions, not paying a nickel in taxes because they’re putting their money in the Cayman Islands. Now how do we get these things through? What this campaign is about is, not just electing a President, it is creating a political revolution where millions of people, many of whom have not been involved in the political process, stand up and demand a government which represents all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors. That’s how we make change.
COOPER: Let me ask you… When you, when you use the term revolution, makes some people nervous. What’s wrong with evolution?
SANDERS: Well, I think what we – you know, we had the, remember the Reagan revolution, and the Gingrich revolution, well, my revolution’s a little bit different. But it is a process. Look, let’s be clear. We have one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country on earth. In the last election where Republicans won a huge victory, 63 percent of the American people didn’t vote, 80 percent of young people didn’t vote. Now, when people don’t vote, there’s a political vacuum that’s created. And I will tell you how it’s filled. It’s filled by lobbyists and campaign contributors who could care less about the middle class, who are there to protect the wealthiest people in this country. So what we are trying to do – and I would tell you, Anderson, with some success – is bring working people and young people and lower income people into the political process. And when that happens, you know what, we will raise the minimum raise, we will have health care for all people, we will make public colleges and universities tuition free.
COOPER: I want to – want you meet Jason Telerski, he’s in IT management, he’s in IT management. He says you are his dream candidate, but he does have some…
SANDERS: Oh. Buts always make me nervous. All right, Jason, fire away.
JASON TELERSKI: So you are my dream candidate in a lot of ways. The message of your campaign really speaks to me and on some issues I feel that you actually speak for me. But I also know that most people don’t have the same class-based view of the world that, that I do and that I think you do as well. I’ve seen all of your debates, and I just don’t see you connecting with the people that view, view the world through a religious or racial lens, people that see those as the powerful forces in our society. I’m wondering what you can do to better engage with the broader electorate to understand, and understand their points of view, demonstrate that you can be an effective leader for them.
SANDERS: Very good question and I thank you for it. We are reaching out, as strongly as we can, for example to the African-American community, and to the Latino community. And I think we are gaining more and more support in those communities, for a couple of reasons. Number one, within the African-American community, it’s not only an economic issue, raising the minimum wage and providing jobs. Youth unemployment for African-American kids now is 51 percent. So those are important issues, but I’ll tell you what else is an important issue, and that is the criminal justice issue. The fact that we have more people in jail in American than any other country, disproportionately African-American and Latino. The fact that blacks and whites do marijuana at about an equal level, and yet four times more blacks get arrests. The fact that blacks are more likely to be stopped by police in a, in a vehicle and get arrested than whites. Those are huge issues. And what I have said and repeat through a virtually all-white state, but I’ll say this all over the country. There will be no President who will fight harder to end institutional racism than I will, and we have got to reform a very, very broken criminal justice system. It breaks my heart, and I know that it breaks the hearts of millions of people in this country to see videos on television of unarmed people, often African-American, shot by police. That has got to end, and these are issues that I take very seriously, Jason.
COOPER: You know, I want to follow up because Jason also mentioned faith, which is something you’ve spoke a little bit about. You’re Jewish but you’ve said that you’re not active….
… African-Americans, shot by police. That has got to end. And these are issues that I take very seriously, Jason.
COOPER: You know, I want to follow up, because Jason also mentioned faith, which is something you’ve spoken a little bit about. You’re Jewish, but you’ve said that you’re not actively involved with organized religion.
What do you say to a voter out there who says – and that who sees faith as a guiding principle in their lives, and wants it to be a guiding principle for this country?
SANDERS: It’s a guiding principle in my life, absolutely, it is. You know, everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings.
I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can’t afford their prescription drugs, you know what, that impacts you, that impacts me.
And I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, it doesn’t matter to me, I got it, I don’t care about other people.
So my spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That’s my very strong spiritual feeling.
COOPER: Senator, I want you to meet Denise Spenard. She was wounded in the Boston Marathon bombing. She says she’s undecided. She has got a question about terrorism.
DENISE SPENARD, BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING SURVIVOR: Yes, I am a fortunate survivor from the Boston bombing. And it has changed my life. And one of the biggest things is participating in events, large events. And I’m running the marathon again…
SANDERS: Good for you.
SPENARD: … this year with my husband. But my kids are going…
SPENARD: Thank you. Thank you.
So, my kids are going to be out there spectating. And I can only think about their safety while they’re out there. So my question to you is, what are your plans for keeping us safe from terrorism?
SANDERS: OK. For a start, in my view, we have got to crush ISIS, all right, for a start. And as somebody who voted against the war in Iraq, what I believe is we’ve got to learn the lessons of that war.
So we have to destroy ISIS, but we have to be not just tough, we have to be smart. And that means we work with a large coalition, led by on-the-ground Muslim troops. King Abdullah of Jordan made the point, it will be Muslim troops who destroy ISIS, because ISIS has hijacked their religion.
The United States, the U.K., France, Germany, Russia provide support, in my view, to the troops on the ground. So we’ve got to crush them.
Internally, what we have got to do is significantly improve intelligence. And I think we are not as strong as we can be in communicating with intelligence agencies all over this country.
If people come into this country, say, I’ve got to be screened although I happen to believe that we should accept refugees from the Middle East, from Syria and Afghanistan.
SANDERS: But I also appreciate the concern that others have, that we have got to screen those people, absolutely, thoroughly. There needs to be better coordination between federal, state, and local police.