Clinton, Sanders to appear at same MN event, separately

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton
Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, right, makes a point as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, listens during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the UWi-Milwaukee, Thursday.
Morry Gash | AP

When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders bring their campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination to Minnesota Friday, they're likely to encounter the same divisions they've seen recently in other states.

Clinton and Sanders will give separate speeches at a DFL Party fundraising dinner in St. Paul. Sanders also plans to go to north Minneapolis to talk about racial equity. Clinton declined an invitation to that event.

While it's not clear who will prevail in the Minnesota caucuses March 1, Democratic voters here, as elsewhere, appear divided along generational lines.

In Medicine Lake, just west of Minneapolis, supporters of Hillary Clinton gathered recently to talk about the campaign. Kip Leonard, 68, said she knows sexism first hand, and Clinton's election would be an important step forward.

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"As a woman first starting out in the workforce," she recalled, "I was asked when I was going to get pregnant, every time I went to a job interview."

Kip Leonard
Kip Leonard hosted a "women for Hillary" party at her Medicine Lake home this week. She says Clinton cares about women's and children's health, and therefore gets her support.
Riham Feshir | MPR News

Clinton's emphasis on women's and children's health, abortion rights and quality education are grabbing Leonard's attention.

"I mean, she'd made this special trip to Flint, and she's talking about what's going on for those children," she said, referring to the Michigan city in crisis over lead contamination in its water. And she made that visit, Leonard said, "right in middle of the campaign for New Hampshire."

But Clinton hasn't won over all women. She won the Iowa caucuses by a razor-thin margin. In New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders won the primary by a landslide, and exit polls showed he won more women's votes than Clinton did. And 83 percent of voters under 30 went for Sanders, while Clinton won a slight majority of voters who were 65 and older.

Younger Democrats in Minnesota may understand Sanders' appeal. Kelsey Ryan, 19, never cared about politics before. But now the apparel-design student at the University of Minnesota is campaigning for Sanders. She puts expensive higher education, economic disparities and climate change at the top of her list of concerns.

Bernie Sanders supporters
Bernie Sanders supporters Ricardo Romero, Kelsey Ryan and Akshitdeep Makkar. Ryan, who carries student loan debt like thousands of other Minnesota students, said Sanders' free college pitches grabbed her attention.
Riham Feshir | MPR News

"When you think about wanting to have kids in the future," she said, "these are things that are going to affect your children, too. You want them to be able to feed themselves, go to college, have rights to their own body, maybe see a polar bear someday."

In 2008, Sherrie Pugh voted for Barack Obama. The 65-year-old said her African-American pride made her back Obama, but she's always been a Clinton fan. She comes from a family that lived in Arkansas when Bill Clinton was governor and saw the progress he and Hillary Clinton made for children and schools.

"I understand and have seen the sincerity and the commitment to work for all people," she said. Sanders has a lot of good sound bites, she said, but she doubts he'll be able to get things done for minorities.

Ricardo Romero disagrees. He said the Vermont senator is not only gaining momentum with young people; he's attracting people of color and low-income families.

"I'm from a family that's been on food stamps," he said. "I'm a scholarship student."

The 22-year old University of Minnesota senior said volunteering for the Sanders campaign has exposed him to the struggles of people with even lower incomes.

"Some of the reason why you see it reflected in students, is that they can see that same future happening to them with all the student debt that they have," Romero said. Minnesota is among the nation's leading states in student debt.

Nina Rothchild
Nina Rothchild is torn between the two Democrats. She likes Hillary Clinton, but is bothered by her Iraq war vote.
Riham Feshir | MPR News

Clinton supporters say her experience and ability to get things done in Washington make her the best candidate for the job. She's been secretary of state, a U.S. senator and first lady. But her Senate vote for the Iraq war was tough to swallow for 85-year-old peace activist Nina Rothchild.

"I knew that it was insane to try to go to Iraq, and yet there she is in Washington, where she should know better," she recalled. "So that really bothered me and it still does."

Clinton is more conservative than Rothchild would like. She feels strongly about Clinton and she even sent a token amount of money to the Sanders campaign in hopes of getting Clinton to move a little more to the left. Even so, Rothchild said, she is torn, and still hasn't decided who will get her vote.