“In the context of the last week’s events, it was especially ironic it was Sen. Sanders speaking,” said former state Sen. Iris Estabrook, who has endorsed Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
She was at the event with a sign reading, “When women vote, women win.”
“That was the spirit of this thing, and it was unfortunate that the senator — and whoever gave him the platform — didn’t respect the original purpose of the gathering,” she said. “I was disturbed enough that when the senator spoke I took a break from the rally and went elsewhere.”
Tanna Clews, CEO of the NH Foundation for Women, was slated to be the first speaker at Seacoast March for Women, held on the steps of the city’s North Church.
But when she arrived to see Sanders’ team setting up a sound system, it suddenly felt too much like a political rally instead of a march for women, she said in a social media posting.
The volunteer organizers of the event pushed back on complaints by saying his attendance likely increased the size of the crowd ten-fold, to several hundreds of people. They also reached out to a representative of the Warren campaign to invite her, but never heard back. Of the hundreds who attended, only a few complained, they said.
The campaign said they attended after being invited.
While Sanders’ supporters have rallied around him in the days following the he-said-she-said rift — Warren accused Sanders of privately telling her a woman couldn’t win the presidency, which he denied — the campaign is taking steps to remedy the chance it has damaged his standing among undecided voters.
In the days following the debate, the Sanders campaign vetted the prospect of having Warren serve as both the vice president and the Treasury secretary, according to an Intercept report.
The Sanders campaign made a direct appeal to women voters on Saturday through author and activist Naomi Klein, a surrogate for the Sanders campaign, who introduced him at the march and other events throughout the day.
“Women understand that Bernie has their backs and women understand that the issues cannot be pried apart — that they are women’s issues,” Klein said at the march. “When we fight unjust wars we are fighting for women and children, when we fight climate change we are fighting for women and children.”
In interviews, a number of women at Sanders events throughout the day saw the recent issues with the Warren campaign as either made up — either by the media or by Warren herself — or small-potatoes developments in the overall campaign.
But even some women who like and respect Sanders said the way he handled the Warren flap has made them think twice.
Undecided voters Helen Crowell and Kris Cotter, both from Glen, said they are considering Warren and Sanders. Crowell said Sanders’ approach to the matter over the last week hurt his standing in her mind.
“I don’t think he’s lying about it,” Crowell said, in reference to allegations that Sanders told Warren that a woman couldn’t win the presidency. “But I think his behavior was a little bit … It highlighted for me the lack, maybe a lack of understanding of his male privilege and what that means for being able to communicate well with women.
“I still think very highly of him. I just feel like it highlighted for me why we need a woman president,” Crowell added.
“He said to Elizabeth Warren at the debate when she started talking, he said, ‘We’re not going to talk about this now.’ That’s a very kind of, you know, paternal,” Crowell said. “Like, she gets to decide what she talks about.”
For his part, Sanders told the crowd of a few hundred gathered for the march that men and women should stick together. He made the argument that a number of issues central to his campaign, like a $15 minimum wage, would help women.
“By the way, men, if you think abortion rights, if you think equal pay for equal work is just a women’s issue, you are dead wrong. It is a human issue,” Sanders said. “The men have got to stand with the women. We are all in this together. That’s what we are, women and men, gay and straight and Latino. We are in this together.”
Klein made a direct appeal to women in Portsmouth. She highlighted Sanders’ advocacy for abortion rights and for “undervalued workers” as reasons why he is popular among women.
“For decades, he has been unwavering in support for our rights control our bodies. He knows Medicare for All is a feminist issue, a reproductive rights issue,” Klein said. “Bernie has been fighting for the lowest paid most undervalued workers and I don’t need to tell you, that’s women.
The campaign also sought to pin last week’s drama on the media, rather than his or Warren’s actions. When asked by a voter how the party should avoid infighting, Sanders turned his attention to the press.
“The media wants and exaggerates conflict,” Sanders told the crowd at a later event. “The media has its schtick and we have ours,” Sanders said, adding the party could avoid infighting by focusing on working families. He also noted he hadn’t said a word about any of the other candidates during the town hall.
Klein took a similar approach in her remarks. Although Klein did not specify she was talking about what happened between Sanders and Warren, she said “corporate media” has become “addicted” to high ratings from covering President Donald Trump.
Even without the president, Klein said, the media is trying to “trump up” conflict among the candidates.