DURHAM, N.H. – Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) final big campaign event before the New Hampshire polls open was as much a rock concert as it was a rally.
More than 7,000 people – around half of Durham's population – gathered in the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore Center Arena to hear the primary frontrunner speak. After Sanders' speech, The Strokes played unreleased songs from their upcoming album in a scene unparalleled at other Democratic events this election cycle.
Filled with college-aged supporters, the enthusiastic crowd illustrated the faithful backing that Sanders boasts as he looks to win Tuesday's primary and build momentum in his presidential bid.
Sanders spoke for approximately 40 minutes and stressed his commitment to making public university free, putting education at the top of his list of "national priorities." Sanders also touched on reforming gun control, combating climate change, and achieving free healthcare.
The crowd, which gave Sanders a minute-long standing ovation, was three times larger than that of other Democratic candidates' recent New Hampshire events.
Attendees were primarily white and most were high school and college students, though older adults also populated the audience.
Students in the crowd said they strongly supported Sanders because he is committed to taxing the wealthy and changing the country's economic landscape.
University of New Hampshire first-year Gareth Owen said Sanders is the only Democratic candidate he would vote for in the presidential election, condemning the other nominees as too centrist to effect change.
"If it's not Bernie, I probably wouldn’t want to vote at all [in November] – if Bernie doesn’t win the nomination, I’m just going to vote for Trump," Owen said. "That’s because if you vote for Biden or Warren, it’s just going to be more of the same; at least with Trump you might get at least some change that’s positive."
University of New Hampshire senior Ben Campbell said Sanders' 2016 candidacy inspired him to become involved in politics.
"I mean I was never really into politics before 2016 when I heard about Bernie Sanders, and then I’ve been 100% in ever since," Campbell said. "You always have politicians who say a lot of things, but they don’t care and they don’t do what they talk about. But Bernie Sanders has been saying it and doing it for like 40 years.”
Currently Bernie is leading the New Hampshire RealClearPolitics polling average, boasting a lead of around seven percentage points over former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
To conclude his speech, Sanders introduced indie rock-band The Strokes for their first-ever concert in New Hampshire. The hour-long set featured a new song titled “Bad Decisions,” and a video for another new song titled “At the Door” – both of which will be on the group's April 2020 album.
During the concert, hundreds of attendees poured from the stands onto the arena floor and into the aisles to dance and sing along. A few supporters even crowd-surfed during the band's final song.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) spoke at the event in support of the Vermont senator, and called out President Donald Trump, who was hosting his own campaign rally in Manchester, 36 miles away.
"Trump is afraid of Bernie. Why else would he have a rally so close to us tonight?" Ocasio-Cortez said. "Because he’s scared and knows Bernie can beat him come November. Because we are gathered here in solidarity and love and kindness."
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