DURHAM, N.H. — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton looked to shore up support among young voters on Wednesday, appearing alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at the University of New Hampshire to tout her plans to make college affordable for middle- and low-income Americans.
Clinton and her one-time Democratic primary rival, a popular figure among young liberal voters, shared the stage at the campus campaign event — both making the case that the upcoming election against Republican Donald Trump would have long-lasting impacts on the lives of young Americans.
“The next 40 days will determine the next 40 years,” Clinton told some 1,200 supporters who crowded into a gymnasium on the tree-lined campus.
The former secretary of state reminded the crowd that the next president would play a role in appointing new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and said Trump’s list of possible nominees to the nation’s highest bench would seek to overturn same-sex marriage.
“There is no group of Americans that have more at stake than young Americans, because so much of what will happen will affect your lives, your jobs,” Clinton said.
A line of hundreds of others stretched several blocks past the building, many listening from outside, as Clinton pledged to provide free tuition at public universities and colleges to students from families earning less than $125,000.
Sanders, whose presidential bid focused heavily on the pledge of free tuition at public colleges, told the audience, he wanted “young people to leave school excited about the future” not worried about “being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student.”
The joint appearance marked the second time the candidates hit the campaign trail together since July when Sanders endorsed Clinton at a rally in Portsmouth, N.H.. Sanders also held a Labor Day rally for Clinton in the state, underscoring the importance of the state to the Clinton campaign.
Clinton lost New Hampshire to Sanders by 20 points in the state’s Feb. 9 primary, and while she leads Trump by an average of 5.4 points in recent state polls, according to the poll tracking website Real Clear Politics, political analysts say support for third-party candidates Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein may be siphoning young voters from Clinton.
Mary Malone, a political science professor at the university, said winning the state’s four electoral votes was “critical for Clinton to meet the threshold of 270 electoral votes.”
“It’s a small number of votes, but its critical to her path to victory,” Malone said.
Former Vice President Al Gore lost the state in 2000, costing him four Electoral College votes in the contentious election against Republican George W. Bush. Gore received 266 Electoral College votes, four shy of the 270 needed.
Sanders told the audience “New Hampshire could decide the outcome of the election” and urged supporters to “not only vote, but to work hard” to deliver the state to Clinton.
Many of those lined up for the event were former Sanders supporter now backing Clinton.
Emily Bailer, 18, a freshman politics major and Sanders supporter, said the Vermont senator’s endorsement of Clinton played a key role in her decision to back Clinton.
“I was definitely undecided about Hillary, but I think she’s proved herself,” Bailer said.
Clinton continues her four-day tour of battleground states on Thursday, with a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa.