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A tale of two rallies: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders have similar ideas, competing paths to 2020 victory

Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

FRANCONIA, N.H. -- For progressive voters such as Richard Poulin, the 2020 Democratic presidential primary offers an agonizing choice between two heroes of the left, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Poulin, a New Hampshire store owner, was a devoted supporter of Sanders' unsuccessful 2016 campaign. Now, he wonders whether Warren is in a better position to beat President Donald Trump than Sanders.

"The most important thing to me is to get rid of Trump," Poulin said. "It's like choosing between two desserts."

But for all their ideological similarities, Sanders and Warren are in many ways as different as ice cream and petit fours -- one a reliable, simple classic; the other, a less familiar, refined taste.

A pair of rallies last week by the two candidates, only 11 miles apart on consecutive days in New Hampshire's mountainous North Country, showcased their differences of style, tone and potential paths to the Democratic nomination.

Sanders spoke at a small-town opera house in Littleton to about 300 supporters, including many from his 2016 following who are crucial to his ability to win. Warren went to a splashier setting -- a tony estate in Franconia with a spectacular view of the White Mountains -- to address an audience of 700, which included not just die-hard supporters but also curious voters checking her out for the first time.

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Their overarching messages were similar in calling for sweeping changes in the economy and political system -- an agenda that some Democrats fear makes both of them too radical to win in a general election.

"What this campaign is about is not only defeating Donald Trump," Sanders said. "What this campaign is about is transforming the government and the economy of the U.S. so that it works for all of us and not just the 1%."

Warren's take: "We've got an economy right now that just keeps working better and better for the bigger and bigger -- the giants who have taken over one field after another -- Big Ag, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Banking."

Some progressive voters attended both rallies, and said their biggest fear is that Warren and Sanders will split the left-wing vote and clear the way for the more centrist Joe Biden, the former vice president who is widely regarded as the front-runner for now.

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