Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sanders Surge Spreads to Iowa, Maine!

Monday night's campaign appearance by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont packed the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine. (photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)
Monday night's campaign appearance by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont packed the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine. (photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

By Scott Galindez, Reader Supported News
07 July 15
ith the wind at his back following his massive rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Bernie Sanders returned to Iowa for a three day campaign swing. Before he even arrived, Quinnipiac University released a poll that had Sanders surging to 33% in the Hawkeye State. Hillary Clinton still holds a 19-point lead in Iowa, but that lead was 45% just 1 month ago. Polls in New Hampshire have Sanders within single digits.

The highlight of Bernie’s three day swing in Iowa was a standing-room-only crowd of over 2,500 in Council Bluffs. It was by far the largest crowd any candidate has mustered in Iowa this year. The second and third largest crowds of around 800 were also at Sanders events in Des Moines and Davenport.

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley was also in Iowa, but his largest crowd was 125 people in a Des Moines suburb. In an interview following a stop Thursday in Waukee, O’Malley said Sanders has been on the rise partly because voters see him for now as a “protest candidate.”

“People feel like big money has subsumed, taken over, their politics, and they’re frustrated by it,” O’Malley said. “People feel like their voices don’t matter. People feel like they’re not being heard, and right now, they want to protest about that. I’m not running as a protest candidate, I’m running for president of the United States.”

O’Malley is also the first candidate to run a negative ad on the Democratic side, and it wasn’t against Hillary Clinton. O’Malley attacked Sanders for his position on gun control, even though the NRA currently gives Sanders a D-minus. O’Malley clearly sees that he has to get past Sanders before he can be a challenger to Clinton.

O’Malley is either spinning or out of touch with Sanders supporters. Sanders crowds are enthusiastic and committed, and they cite his authenticity as one reason. Maybe O’Malley should lose the teleprompter and the speeches about Baltimore’s role in the American Revolution. Bernie is connecting with voters while O’Malley is gaining no traction.

Sanders marched in three July 4th parades, one on the 3rd in Dennison, Iowa, and two on the 4th. RSN caught up with Sanders on the 4th in Waukee, a conservative town 18 miles west of Des Moines. I had a chance to talk to Bernie and his wife Jane following the parade.

I also asked his supporters why they support him. Perhaps Gov. O’Malley should watch this.

Another major boost for Sanders came in a press conference at a firefighters union hall in Council Bluffs. Three weeks ago, Larry Cohen was the national president of the Communication Workers of America (CWA). On July 3rd in Council Bluffs he became a volunteer for Bernie Sanders.

Cohen said it “wasn’t a close call. For working families in a union or not, this is the candidate who not only stands up for us but believes, in his words, that we need a political revolution … Bernie Sanders has showed us in the last couple of months that we can run a campaign, that we can raise money, that we can break turnout records wherever we go, just by standing up for working people … I don’t know that in my lifetime, or anyone’s in this room, that we have had a candidate for president with his viability, who was there his entire life for working people … Every candidate in these primary and caucus states can talk well, they know what we want to hear. This is a guy who for his entire life has been there for working people, who doesn’t back down, who stands up for us when we are in fights with the biggest corporations in the country … He doesn’t back away … He doesn’t avoid the fight.”

Cohen said he will do whatever is needed, in Iowa or anywhere he is needed. He will work to bring in support from other union members and their allies, which is a huge asset to Sanders.

Bernie said that Larry Cohen’s endorsement means a great deal to him, that they have worked together for years, but that it’s not just about Larry and the CWA, that other union members are on board and he is proud to have their support.

On Monday night, the surge spread to Portland, Maine, where more than 7,500 people packed an arena in another big show of grassroots support for Bernie Sanders.Portland is not Madison, Wisconsin, so this number says a lot about the breadth of his support.

“In case you didn’t notice, this is a big turnout,” Sanders told the placard-waving crowd as they cheered his call to take on the billionaire class and rebuild the American middle class. “From Maine to California, the American people understand that establishment politics and establishment economics are not working for America,” Sanders said. “They understand that the greed of Wall Street and corporate America is destroying the great middle class of this country, and people from coast to coast are saying, ‘You can’t keep getting away with it.’”

Sanders was introduced by Troy Jackson, a logger from Allagash, Maine, who praised the senator’s willingness to take on “the big corporate structure.” Sanders’ proposals for improving health care, raising the minimum wage, and making higher education tuition-free were also cited by Jackson, a Democratic National Committee member and former Maine Senate majority leader. “What a lot of people are feeling is that there is somebody speaking to their issues,” Jackson told the Portland Press-Herald. “That’s why you’re seeing so many people come out.”

More than 7,500 was the initial estimate from the campaign, but MSNBC reported that arena officials think it’s more likely that close to 9,000 people filled the arena. Either way, Sanders has drawn over 25,000 people in the last week. I don’t think any other Democrat in the race has drawn this many in the whole election cycle. Just a protest vote, Martin? I think it is very clear – Bernie Sanders has launched a movement that traditional electoral campaigns might not be able to stop.

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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