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Monday, June 8, 2015

Bernie Sanders' Momentum Shows He Can Win

In Minneapolis thousands listened to Bernie outside the venue that had over two thousand inside. (photo: Sanders for President/Reddit)
In Minneapolis thousands listened to Bernie outside the venue that had over two thousand inside. (photo: Sanders for President/Reddit)


By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News
07 June 15
readersupportednews.org 
 
t was no surprise when several thousand people packed the waterfront in Burlington, Vermont, for Bernie Sanders’ kick-off rally. “Bernie,” as he is known in Vermont, has been winning political campaigns there for decades. But when the crowds continued in New Hampshire, Iowa, and Minnesota, Democratic party insiders took notice. Concerned Clinton supporters in Iowa started calling campaign officials, warning them that she’d better get out here fast, that the view in the rear view mirror was shrinking, and that Bernie was closing fast.

The first sign that the Sanders campaign had momentum was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Burt Cohen, a former state senator from New Hampshire, said he was amazed when 700 people showed up for an event he helped pull together for Sanders at a church in Portsmouth the day after the formal launch in Burlington. “I’ve been involved in New Hampshire politics for 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cohen said. “It was electric, from start to finish.”

The first overflow crowd was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (photo: Bernie Sanders for President)


Then came Davenport, Iowa. I arrived a few hours early and the organizers were debating how many chairs they would need. They had 500 set up, and decided to tell the host to take down some chairs and they would reset them if they needed them. It turned out that 500 was not enough. The venue was a ballroom on St. Ambrose University.

The room can be divided into three sections. The campaign was using two sections of the room. As the room filled, they first set up the chairs they had taken down, bringing the count back to 500. That was not enough, so the wall divider was removed and another 250 chairs went up. They were soon filled with enthusiastic supporters of Bernie Sanders. Over 100 people couldn’t find a seat. As I moved around the room to get good angles for photographs, I found sections where young people had given up their seats for people who needed them more and were sitting on the floor. The New York Times called the Davenport crowd the largest campaign-organized event in Iowa this year. To give some perspective, two days later Martin O’Malley flew to Davenport following his announcement in Baltimore. He drew 50 people.

The photo above shows two thirds of the over 750 people who showed up to see Bernie Sanders in Davenport. (photo: Evan Burger)


The next day, in Muscatine, Iowa, after a rally at a community college drew twice the expected audience of 50, Bernie seemed giddy. “Be amazed at what you saw here,” he said. “I want to win this.” At another event that day, a backyard party in West Branch organized by State Senator Dave Johnson, over 200 people showed up and heard Sanders’ message. West Branch is a town of just over 2,000 people.

The crowd in the backyard of State Senator Dave Johnson in West Branch, Iowa. (photo: Bernie Sanders for President)

Bernie’s Iowa surge continued on Saturday in Iowa City. The event was held in the social hall of the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center. Three hundred people packed the room that was equipped with 200 seats, and another 100 listened to the speech from the hallway and stairs that led to the venue. When Bernie arrived, he shouted his appreciation to those not lucky enough to get into the room. He thanked them for turning out, then went inside to hold a town hall meeting. The Town Hall meeting style has been the chosen format for Sanders. He delivers his remarks and then takes a lot of questions. Many campaigns take a few questions and then off the candidate goes, but even with his tight schedule Sanders took many questions in Iowa City.

In order to comfortably listen to presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders, some in the crowd of over 300 people resorted to sitting on exercise balls from the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center Saturday morning in Iowa City. (photo: Zach Berg / Press-Citizen)

The Sanders Express rolled out of Iowa City, home of the Hawkeyes, and headed to Ames, Iowa, the home of the Iowa State Cyclones. Hundreds of people packed into the main room of the Torrent Brewing Company on a Saturday afternoon for what was billed as a grassroots organizing event. Once again, the venue was too small for the crowd, and many who came to see Sanders had to settle for looking in the window.

This is not the first time Bernie has had a large crowd in Ames. Back in February, the Story County Democrats held their annual soup and chili supper. Hundreds attended and the treasurer said they had their best fundraising haul ever. Something is clearly happening in Iowa, and the even better news is it’s not just Iowa.

The crowd inside the Torrent Brewing Company in Ames, Iowa (photo: Bernie Sanders for President)

Those on the outside watch through the windows. (photo: Bernie Sanders for President)

The final stop in Iowa was a town that had a population of 266 in 2010. But on Saturday, 300 people filled the community center to hear Bernie Sanders. The Tri-County Democratic party chair introduced Bernie before calling Hillary Clinton’s campaign and warning them that Bernie was on their tail. Kurt Meyer, the county party chairman who organized the event, sent a text message to Troy Price, the Iowa political director for Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Objects in your rearview mirror are closer than they appear,” Meyer warned Price, adding that Hillary had better get back to Iowa soon.

Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd in Kensett, Iowa, on Saturday evening, May 30, 2015. Sanders spent three days holding rallies across eastern Iowa. By the time he got to Kensett, his voice was hoarse. (photo: Emilie Stigliani/Free Press)

The Iowa momentum continued north to Minneapolis, Minnesota. The campaign originally planned to have a Town Hall meeting in a union hall. After two thousand people RSVP’d for the event, it was moved to the Native American Center. Some estimated the crowd that attended on that Sunday morning at five thousand. Bernie himself said four thousand, and I think based on the photos it could have been double that. Two thousand were inside the center while thousands of others were outside on the lawn listening to Bernie.
The crowd that was lucky enough to get a seat in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (photo: Bernie Sanders for President)

The crowd outside listening to Bernie in Minneapolis. (photo: Bernie Sanders for President)

There is no doubt that Bernie Sanders has drawn more people to his events than any other candidate for president from either party. There have been conferences, summits, and dinners that were larger, but no event organized by an individual campaign have been as big as Bernie’s events.

All of this happened before MoveOn and Democracy for America decided to end their effort to draft Senator Elizabeth Warren into the race. Perhaps the Run Warren Run folks saw many of their supporters attending Bernie Sanders events. While Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton have tailored their campaigns to attract Warren’s supporters, Bernie has not needed to change his. He has been fighting for the same issues as Warren his whole political life. Bernie Sanders has had the same message for 30 years. The American people are finally catching up.

I spoke to many Sanders supporters at these events. They are sick and tired of hearing how Bernie Sanders might pull Hillary Clinton to the left. They are fed up with hearing that Bernie can’t win. They are committed to getting Bernie Sanders elected President of the United States. Make no mistake about it, Bernie Sanders is in it to win, and if the early response from the American people is any indication, he may just do it.

UPDATE: Just Yesterday a big crowd packed a community center in Keene, New Hampshire and spilled outside when US Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke at a town meeting. The standing-room-only crowd of more than 750 cheered Sanders’ proposals for dealing with wealth and income inequality, making college tuition-free, combating climate change and getting big money out of politics. Perhaps the biggest applause of the day came near the end of Sanders’ remarks when he told the crowd he was going to tell them a secret: “We are going to win New Hampshire.” Sanders was introduced by Emily Hague, an at-large Keene City Council member. Bernie’s work on the environment was an inspiration to her, she said. It’s also why she announced at the outset of the meeting that she is endorsing Sanders in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. The big turnout was evidence of a growing groundswell of support. “This is not about Bernie Sanders,” he said. “You can have the best president in the history of the world but that person will not be able to address the problems that we face unless there is a mass movement, a political revolution in this country.



Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador's slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush's first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.

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