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Some New Hampshire Dems want Bernie Sanders' ideas, but not Sanders

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Manchester, N.H. — When independent Sen. Bernie Sanders returns to New Hampshire as a second-time presidential candidate, it's likely he'll receive a chilly reception.

Three years after the Granite State delivered Sanders his first primary win over Hillary Clinton — by a 23-point margin — many of the Democratic voters here now think his moment has come and gone.

His presidential campaign comes as the Democratic Party is pushing for younger, more diverse candidates, and many in the already sizable field champion progressive ideas like Medicare for All that Sanders has held for years.

While many New Hampshire voters told CBS News it's too early to choose a favorite candidate, it's apparently not too early to reject candidates like Sanders or even former Vice President Joe Biden, a sentiment frequently distilled into a cry for "no more old white men."

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"I think the time for old white men has gone for the moment," Ellen Barnett, 71, told CBS News at an event for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

"Amen!" The woman standing next to her shouted in agreement.

"I don't even take them as serious candidates, actually," Barnett added.

"I think [Sanders] should take a step back and support the next wave of politicians," Kara Lamarche, 44, said. "Enough is enough. I think it's time for him to retire."

New Hampshire progressive talk radio host and former gubernatorial candidate Arnie Arnesen, who claims to be one of the most vocal Sanders supporters in 2016, had hoped he would stay out of the fray in order to protect his brand.

"Some of us get to open doors and others get to walk through them," Arnesen said. A run now, according to Arneson, "almost looks like he cares more about Bernie than about us."    

Even older white Democratic male party leaders in the state are moving on. State Rep. Skip Cleaver of Nashua, 74, said he is actively embracing more diverse candidates, and former U.S. Amb. George Bruno, a veteran campaign luminary here, said he has an age cap for the next Democratic nominee: 70.

Christian Conti, 24, a 2016 Sanders supporter said it was just not his age on paper but also his energy, a quality President Trump, 72, is fond of mocking when he believes Democrats are "low energy."

"Trump has this high energy somehow, he is go-go-go and gets things done and is up all night and somehow never tired, and some people think he is on speed or something," Conti said. "But, you know, Bernie is just old."

Sanders would be 79 years old at his inauguration should he win, and he is keenly aware of his ageist critics.

"When we look at people whether they're old or they're young, you gotta look at the totality of the person," Sanders told "CBS This Morning" earlier on Tuesday.

"I was a cross-country runner, a long distance runner when I was a kid, and I've been running hard, in a sense, since then," Sanders said.  

"I supported Bernie wholeheartedly in 2016 ... but I think he needs to make more room for people who are women and people of color to talk about their own experience that is more powerful than what he is able to do," another former Sanders supporter Linds Jakows, 28, told CBS News.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., mentioned Sanders twice on Friday during an event in Somersworth, first citing their recently introduced bill to "blow the cap" on Social Security and then later, said her and Sanders are the only two who support a "transaction tax" on Wall Street.

Several supporters of Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's presidential candidacy recalled her decision to quit her post at the Democratic National Committee in 2015 so she could officially endorse Sanders.

Now, after a town hall in North Hampton, Gabbard wouldn't say if she fully welcomed Sanders into the race, though she was asked three times.

"Bernie Sanders is his own man and he is going to make his own decision," Gabbard said.

Other candidates who campaigned in New Hampshire this week are excited about touting progressive issues that Sanders has advocated for years.

One of those proposals is Medicare for All. New Jersey Democrat Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, mentioned the policy this weekend while campaigning in New Hampshire, and crowds responded enthusiastically.

"You may recall that in 2016 many of the ideas that I talks about — Medicare for all, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making public colleges and universities tuition-free ... All of those ideas and many more are now part of the political mainstream," Sanders told CBS This Morning.

Asked if the other candidates are copying him, Sanders replied, "Well, I don't want to say that." He then smiled and added, "I think most people would say that."

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