DURHAM, N.H. — Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders drew an estimated 3,000 people to a boisterous rally here Sunday night at the University of New Hampshire, about five times as many people as Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton attracted to an event two days ago at the same campus.
“You may not know this, but what you’re part of tonight is the largest turnout for any presidential candidate in New Hampshire,” Sanders said at the outset of his rally, referring to the 2016 cycle.
Many of the audience members in the university’s fieldhouse were college students, a group Sanders said had a reputation for being apathetic. “It sounds to me like you are ready to transform America,” he said to loud applause.
When Clinton appeared on campus here two days earlier, about 600 people came to see her at a forum about college affordability. About 300 people were seated in a room at the student union while nearly 300 watched from an overflow room during the event Friday morning, according to figures provided by Clinton's campaign.
While Clinton's event was open to the public, aides said that it was not meant to draw a rally-sized crowd and that Clinton was focused on holding a thoughtful discussion. Sanders’s event, which his campaign said drew more than 3,000 people, was held at a time more convenient for students.
Still, the large disparity in crowd sizes highlights an enthusiasm gap among younger voters in the early nominating states. Recent polls from Iowa and New Hampshire have shown Sanders with sizable leads over Clinton among voters younger than 30.
Part of Sanders’s strategy here and in Iowa is to attract far more young voters than typically show up at Democratic primaries and caucuses.
Although Clinton was once a formidable Democratic front-runner, recent polls have showed Sanders with a modest lead in New Hampshire and a very close race in Iowa among all voters.
As Sanders delivered his hour-long stump speech Sunday night, he garnered some of his largest applause for pledging to make tuition free at public colleges and universities and to make it easier for graduates with large debts to refinance at lower rates.
Among Sanders’s fans here was sophomore Lucas Prevost.
“What really gets me about Bernie is how he engages on issues that are important to us,” said Prevost, who is majoring in biological engineering and left the rally with an armful of Sanders placards.
The rally capped off a two-day swing through New Hampshire for Sanders, who has sounded quite confident about the direction of his upstart campaign.
At the opening of a campaign office in Portsmouth earlier Sunday, he told supporters that he thinks he has “a really good chance” to win the New Hampshire primary. He said he is also doing well in Iowa, the home of the nation’s first presidential caucus.
If he wins both contests, Sanders said, “that opens up the door to a path toward victory.”