Campaign Countdown: The U.S. Senate race - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Campaign Countdown: The U.S. Senate race

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On a fall day in the Kingdom, Bernie Sanders is walking a path that's very comfortable for him.

The campaign trail takes him from a solar project he helped fund at Lyndon State College -- "By cutting this ribbon we finally allow the sun to shine through," Sander's told a crowd.

To a town hall meeting -- "This is your government, lets make sure we are all involved," he said.

To a student interview -- "Yes, I've done this once or twice," Sanders said.

Sanders first won elected office in 1981, becoming Burlington's Mayor. Since then he's served 16 years in the U.S. House -- and now six in the Senate.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: You spent much of your career as an outsider railing against insiders. Now that you have been in the senate for six years, do you think you've become an insider?

Sen. Bernie Sanders: No, I don't.  The longest serving Independent in the U.S. Congress, I look at the world a little differently then my colleagues do.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: Is it frustrating in the Senate?  

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Oh yeah. Yes. Sometimes it is very frustrating.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: Why do you want to go back then?

Sen. Bernie Sanders: These are the fights that have to happen and I think I do a pretty good job doing that.
His message has stayed consistent over the years -- supporting universal health care coverage and speaking against the rich and corporate greed. "We are looking at a middle class that is disappearing," he said.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: Do you think it's a failure because you are still having to talk about the same problem decades and decades later.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Well, I don't know it's a failure. One person can't change the world. But I can tell you that issues I talked about twenty years ago, a lot more people are talking about them right now.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: In this race do you feel like David vs.Goliath?

John MacGovern: Absolutely.

Republican John MacGovern is new to the campaign trail, running for U.S. Senate because he's worried about spending and the deficit.  He's also running because no other Republican stepped up and he thought someone should.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: This is your first statewide run in Vermont. Why are you jumping to what some consider a high office -- U.S. Senate?

John MacGovern: Well, I think it's a national crisis not as much a state crisis.

MacGovern moved to Vermont in 1999 from Massachusetts. He lives in Windsor. The Dartmouth grad is the president of the Hanover Institute, a Dartmouth alumni outreach group. He spent four terms in the Massachusetts legislature. If elected to the U.S. Senate he wants to cut social services and balance the budget.

John MacGovern: Many of the things done by the government can be done by the private sector today.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: Such as?

John MacGovern: Charity -- taking care of the poor, hospitals -- all of these things in earlier years used to be done by private institutions, by churches.

"Deficit reduction is an important issue -- we have to do it," Sen. Sanders said. "But we don't do it on the backs of the elderly by cutting Social Security, by transforming Medicare into a voucher system."

MacGovern has raised about $30,000 in this race so far. Sanders has collected more then 200 times that -- about $7 million.  Sanders said the average donation is about $45 dollars, with 90 percent of the money coming from out of state.

"I think he's become part of the establishment -- he's out of touch," MacGovern said. "You can't raise $6.8 million without really working at it."

Reporter Kristin Carlson: Do you think there is any hypocrisy -- you say you are worried about money and elections, but you are raising and spending so much money. Or is that the game and you have to play it?

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Look, if I did not raise money, what do you think would happen? Wall Street and the oil companies and the military industrial complex would say, Sanders is vulnerable, lets put a lot of money into the State of Vermont. We can beat him. He doesn't have a lot of money.

The two candidates disagree on many issues. From abortion -- MacGovern is against it -- Sanders supports it. To the F-35's -- Sanders wants the Vermont Air Guard to get the new fighter jets, MacGovern does not because of neighbors' concerns about noise.  Sanders said he'll work with the guard to try and mitigate the noise problem, but that it's not a deterrent.
"If Burlington does not get the F-35, that plane does not disappear. What will happen -- it will go to a National Guard base in South Carolina or Florida and if that happens, we will lose hundreds and hundreds of jobs," Sanders said. "I want to see their mission maintained, and for better or worse, the F-35 is the plane that can do that."

"I'm running to be a different kind of political figure -- to call it like I see it, not based on what kind of benefits, whether it gets me elected or re-elected," MacGovern said.

WCAX-TV followed MacGovern to his one public event on this day -- a candidates forum. "I'm John MacGovern and I'm on the ballot and I'd appreciate your vote," MacGovern said.

"What are you running for?" asked one voter.  

"U.S. Senate... I have a tough road," MacGovern responded. "No question about it -- it's a long shot."

Sanders had several stops planned, and at one point asked for time alone.  

Reporter Kristin Carlson: What do you do in those moments when you take a break on the campaign trail?

Sen. Bernie Sanders: There is a lot that one has to think about, so sometimes I like to chill out, so to speak.

A brief break, before getting on the trail again.  

Reporter Kristin Carlson: Is this the first election where you feel comfortable you are going to win?

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Kristin, I never feel comfortable. I always work hard.

Although one sign that Sanders feels confident.  He is spending some time out of state, campaigning for fellow Senators and for the President.

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