Bridgeport – A hoarse Hillary Clinton closed her Connecticut primary campaign Sunday with an implicit nod to the supporters of her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, and a loud repudiation of how she says America has been divided by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of Republicans Donald J. Trump and Ted Cruz.
“When you hear what Trump and Cruz say, it’s not only offensive, it’s dangerous,” Clinton told a capacity crowd of 1,200 in a small gymnasium at the University of Bridgeport, a campus with international students and visiting foreign scholars.
In a state where the most recent poll shows her with a nine percentage point lead over Sanders, who was expected to address a larger crowd Sunday night on the New Haven Green, Clinton is supported by an organization that promises to help turn out her vote on Tuesday. Her husband, Bill Clinton, returns to the state Monday with other prominent surrogates, Gabby Giffords and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.
U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal warmed up the crowd. She was introduced by Charlie L. Stallworth, a state legislator and deep-voiced pastor of an African American church in Bridgeport, the state’s largest city and, traditionally, its second largest source of Democratic votes after New Haven.
Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, who greeted Trump at his rally in Bridgeport the previous day, had no public role. Ganim, a Democrat, watched from a press riser to the side, assuring reporters of his support for Clinton, whom he met backstage and posed with for a selfie.
Clinton pledged to fight for a higher minimum wage, equal pay for women, health-care reform, gun control, gay rights, affordable higher education and a means to refinance expensive student loans. Sanders has taken the lead on affordable education, saying tuition at public universities should be free. Clinton did not mention him by name.
The former first lady, secretary of state and New York senator drew a crowd of passionate supporters and the merely curious, including international visitors and some students who are unaffiliated.
Betsy DeGroff, a teacher from Norwalk, said she has been a Clinton supporter for years.
“And I’m 63,” she said. “She’s qualified, and it’s time for a woman.”
Yang Xia said she was one of five visiting scholars from China who decided to take advantage of an opportunity to view American presidential campaigning up close.
What she saw was a small gym that reached its capacity with a long line still outside on a scenic campus set by the Long Island Sound, where visitors passed through tight security, but the candidate stood close on a small square stage, with the audience on three sides and a diverse human backdrop on a riser behind her.
Clinton worked the rope line after speaking for a half hour, shaking hands and posing for selfies.
She smiled when her voice cracked on stage.
“Let me get a drink of water,” she said, turning to a glass perched on a stool. “I’ve been talking non-stop for weeks now. Forgive me while I stick a lozenge in my mouth.”
The crowd applauded.
Clinton began softly, addressing the need for the nation to get past the stigma of mental illness and make care more widely available. It was a moment, she said, unlikely to make the news in a cycle dominated “by who said what nasty thing about somebody else. Honestly, that’s not going to make us a better country.”
That, of course, didn’t mean she had no criticism of the GOP field of Trump, Cruz and John Kasich.
“Now, I hope you have paid attention to what the Republicans who are running for president have been saying, because everything I just said they disagree with,” Clinton said. “I mean, really, they don’t believe in equal pay. They don’t believe in raising the minimum wage. Donald Trump actually says wages are too high in America. And they all want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Of course, they all have insurance, by the way.”