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Bernie Sanders’ chances slim but still a hit with young supporters

world Updated: Feb 29, 2016 19:50 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders’ supporters Brittany Beckett-Harrison and Hayden Cuffman, both students at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

South Carolina may have delivered an awful outcome for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in his attempt to win the Democratic party’s nomination for the US presidential elections, but his legion of young millennial supporters are plugging away at his campaign.

Little Rock, Arkansas, may be Clinton country, with Bill having been the state Governor and much residual affection remaining for the one-time first couple, but for university students, the “Bern” – as the 74-year-old Senator has been dubbed – remains a firm favourite.

A member of the University of Arkansas Young Democrats, who spoke on condition of anonymity since the group is neutral in the primary process, said students preferred Sanders over Hillary Clinton by a “wide margin”. He guessed that could be as high as nine out of 10.

Among those is Hayden Cuffman, a 24-year-old student of political science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. “His message really resonates with my generation, especially when it comes to college debt,” he said. Sanders has promised to make college education free.

Despite suffering a series of losses in the primaries to Hillary Clinton, US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders remains popular with young voters. (AFP Photo)

“I can say on campus and among people I know, there is overwhelming support for Sanders,” Cuffman said, as he chuckled at the “interesting phenomenon” that one of the oldest candidates has a lock on the youngest supporters.

Cuffman, though, was clear he would vote for Clinton if she were the eventual nominee.

But Brittany Beckett-Harrison, also 24 and a student of information science, said, “Honestly, I won’t.” She said she would opt for the Green Party candidate if Sanders wasn’t the nominee. “I would say Hillary’s history is not in line with my type of feminism,” she explained.

In fact, even young African-Americans like 18-year-old Maya Underwood, who was at a rally for Clinton in Pine Bluff, wouldn’t commit to her.

But it isn’t just the young turning out for Sanders. Among the most enthusiastic volunteers at Sanders’ Little Rock office is 82-year-old Joyce Boswell, who said: “Our whole family is supporting him.”

Sanders’ chances in Arkansas are slim, but certainly substantial when it comes to youthful zest.