Outdoor Show: Vermont vendors on surging Sanders

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — While America is just getting to know Bernie Sanders, folks from his home state of Vermont say they know him best.

Sen. Bernie Sanders on stage at PBS debate on Thursday.

Among the hundreds of vendors from across the country attending the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg this week, the handful from Vermont offered some intriguing insight regarding their two-term senator’s surging presidential run.

“I think it’s exciting for a lot of people,” said Harold Torre, owner of Torre Custom Rifles in Milton, Vermont. “I think a lot of people really had Bernie underrated. I don’t think, including myself, really anybody took him seriously, that he could make a strong run at the presidency.”

Harold Torre of Milton, VT

Other Vermont residents working the show say Bernie, who grew up in Brooklyn, holds too many liberal values.

“He’s different,” said Nathan Chesney, who operates Hillbilly Custom Rifles from Newport, Vermont. “Vermont is a very liberal state, but very gun friendly. I’m for the gun friendliness but not for the liberal policies. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy. Bernie just sees the world in a different place, if you ask me, not what a true Vermonter would see.”

“But by the same token,” added Torre, “I’ve never seen him (Sanders) spearheading any anti-legislation for gun owners. I think he’s genuine in his efforts.”

According to Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research in Harrisburg, Sanders’ apparent likeability among those who don’t necessarily agree with his policies isn’t surprising.

jim lee
Jim Lee, Susquehanna Polling & Research

“On the issue of trust, the exit polling in New Hampshire showed that of the voters coming out of the polls, that said the most important qualification for a candidate to have is trustworthiness, they broke for Sanders by a 92- to 6-percent margin,” Lee said. “And that’s when we’ve seen the polling results start to haunt Hillary because the national polling is showing the race is much tighter now.”

While Chesney says politics often come up in conversations with customers in his gun shop, most do not support Sanders in the long run. When asked if Sanders’ surge onto the national stage gives him a place on the list of Vermont’s famous things, like ice cream and maple syrup, he quickly replied, “Nope.”

While Torre’s interest in the Sanders primary campaign has grown, he’s also not willing to endorse a liberal all the way to White House.

“I gotta admit, I’m actually rooting for him, hope he does beat Hillary through these primaries,” Torre said. “And I think there’s a lot of other people in Vermont that have my same sentiment. I’m not going to vote for him for President.”

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