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Sanders in Tucson: 'Crystal clear' differences between Trump and Clinton

With just three weeks until Election Day, U.S. Bernie Sanders returned to Tucson to stump for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, telling a crowd of nearly 5,000 people on the University of Arizona mall that "Our job is to defeat Trump."

The Vermont Democrat's visit was part of a flurry of activity by Democrats, who hope to make a reliably Republican state blue for the first time in 20 years. The party has pressed even harder after recent polls showed that Clinton has a slight margin over Republican candidate Donald Trump in the state.

A poll out Wednesday morning from Arizona State University and The Arizona Republic showed that Clinton has a 5-point lead over Trump among likely voters. 

This week, the campaign pledged $2 million in advertising and said that Sanders, along with Chelsea Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama would visit Arizona this week.

Chelsea Clinton will visit Tempe on Wednesday and Michelle Obama will speak in Phoenix on Thursday.

Though now stumping for Clinton rather than his own presidential ambitions, Sanders returned with the same fire, pushing for a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, comprehensive immigration reform, student debt relief and free college for families that make under $125,000 annually. Sanders also pushed for legislation that would overturn Citizens United, a 2010 Supreme Court decision that allows corporations and wealthy groups to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns.

Embraced by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva after his introduction, Sanders said  he wanted a "vibrant and vigorous democracy" and encouraged people to run for office, from school board to president. However, he said that Citizens United a "disastrous decision" that allowed wealthy individuals to "buy elections against you."

Sanders said that he spoke to Clinton just a few days ago and that she had agreed that in her first 100 days as president, she would submit a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

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"She has made it clear that no nominee of hers to the Supreme Court will get that nomination unless he or she is clear that they will vote to overturn Citizens United," Sanders said.

The distinction between Trump and Clinton was "crystal clear," he said. Clinton wants to overturn Citizens United while Trump will sustain it he said.

Sanders brought up voter suppression, citing a number of states where governors added new voter ID laws or restrictions, some despite multiple court orders against them.

"It is hard to believe in the year 2016, after the very difficult path that this country has traveled, that you have governors today who are making it harder for poor people, people of color, young people, old people to participate in the political process," Sanders said. "And, I would say to them, if you don't have the guts to defend your ideas in free and fair elections, get out of politics."

As Sanders spoke, a small clot of Trump supporters at the back of the crowd raised "Make America Great Signs" while a trio of supporters for third-party candidate Gary Johnson meandered closer. 

Sanders moved through his ideas quickly in the 45-minute speech, shifting from voting restrictions to economic issues.

"On that issue, anyone who examines Trump's position with Secretary Clinton's position will see crystal clear that Clinton's views are a thousand times better than Trump's," he said. "And, it is worse today than since 1928."

"We have got to create an economy that works for you and the middle class, not just wealthy campaign contributors," he said.

Sanders said that he had traveled across the United States for the last 18 months, highlighting how the the tax system is "rigged" for the wealthy, but he said that Trump on one day "did more to make my point about how corrupt our tax system is than I've done in a year and a half."

"So, I thank you Donald Trump for that," Sanders said to cheers and laughter from the crowd.

Sanders said that new revelations about Trump's tax returns showed that despite his wealth he does not have to pay "one nickel" in federal income taxes. The wealthy he said, avoid taxes because they know that middle-class families pay taxes.

"I've got some bad news for you, Donald Trump, not only are you going to lose the election on Nov. 8, but you and your billionaire friends—and multinational corporations—are going to start paying their fair share," Sanders said, hammering at the Republican candidate.

This continued throughout his speech, including a moment when Sanders mentioned immigration reform.

"Donald Trump has a brilliant idea—by definition every thing Donald Trump says is 'brilliant,' evidently—to sweep up and deport 11 million undocumented people," Sanders said. "Hillary Clinton and I have a very different idea. We need to move toward comprehensive immigration reform."

"We cannot elected a candidate to be president who refers to our Mexican brothers and sisters as rapists and criminals," Sanders said.

With the University of Arizona campus as a backdrop, Sanders argued for changes in college tuition and college loan terms, saying that Clinton would eliminate tuition for families making under $125,000 a year. Teachers would be able to get their loans forgiven and other student could refinance students loans to get the lowest interest rates available. 

"This is pretty crazy, but there are people paying student debt at six, eight 10 percent," Sanders said, noting that car loans are as low as 1.5 percent. 

Before Sanders spoke, Zaira Livier, a neuroscience major at the University of Arizona told the crowd that she would leave college owing more than $80,000 for her tuition. Livier has to pay out-of-state tuition because she is a Mexican immigrant who came to the country without authorization with her family. Out-of-state students at the university might have to pay more than $17,000 annually for tuition alone. 

Before the event, Daniel Rivera Ashford, 67, said that he was voting for Clinton because of Trump's comments.

"I feel so strongly about this, when he came down the stairs and said that Mexico was sending its worst, I was offended," Ashford said. "I'm Mexican-American, and my family has been here for generations."

Beth Magnon, 62, said that she liked Sanders, but "If Bernie is with Clinton, I will vote for both of them." 

Jamie Hoggan, 33, said she's been a fan of Clinton since she was in the fourth grade, and worked on Clinton's campaign in 2008 when she was pregnant with her daughter. "I'm just so excited to see Sanders and the election, I've always like Hillary and I want her to win." 

Lily King, 22, and Miranda Lopez, 21, stood together in line. While King was less exited about Clinton and said that she voted for Sanders in the primary, her and Lopez would continue to watch the debates to discuss the finer points between the two candidates. 

But, both knew exactly who they were going to vote for, and neither was for Trump. 

Sanders noted the end of segregation and Jim Crow south, women's suffrage, and the recent wins for gay rights were all signs that "real change never, ever takes place unless millions of people band together and fight for economic, and social, and environmental justice." 

"In the next three weeks, I hope that all of you will not only vote, but get your friends, your uncles and aunts to vote. It is absolutely imperative that Hillary Clinton be elected president," Sanders said. 

"But the day after thee election, I don't want you to go to sleep," Sanders said. "You need to roll up your sleeves and fight to make this country what we know what it can become." 

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders returned to Tucson Tuesday to push for the defeat of Donald Trump in Arizona.