Apart from Hillary Clinton, no other name on the Democratic side of the presidential candidate list has created anywhere near the buzz to that of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. From the onset of his campaign launch, Sanders has been attracting very large crowds everywhere he speaks, and is garnering some positive words from Elizabeth Warren.
Report from MSNBC:
“In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people here,” Bernie Sanders said a bit awed as he took the stage in front of nearly 10,000 in a coliseum here.
Sanders has been attracting outsize crowds wherever he takes his unlikely presidential campaign. Five thousand came out for his kickoff rally in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont. Another 5,000 turned out in Denver, Colorado. In Minneapolis, a thousand listened from outside after the basketball arena where Sanders was speaking filled to capacity.
But Madison was different.
“Tonight we have made history,” Sanders declared to thunderous applause. “Tonight we have more people at a meeting for a candidate for president of the United States than any other candidates have.”
Indeed, Sanders – the self-declared Democratic-socialist from Vermont; the former perennial protest candidate; the man who until a few weeks ago belonged to neither party – turned out more people Wednesday night than has any candidate of either party so far this year.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton attracted 5,500 people, according to her campaign, to her kickoff rally in New York City, and 1,800 in Virginia last week but has otherwise not focused on large rallies. While Republican Sen. Ted Cruz had 11,000 for his launch at Liberty University, attendance was mandatory for the school’s 13,000-strong student body, so it’s unclear how many came of their own volition.
As noted in the piece, Ted Cruz had the largest number of eyeballs assembled for his announcement, but the event was compulsory on the Liberty University campus, so it can’t be accurately compared to Sanders’ numbers.
Clearly there is a grassroots level of excitement for Sanders on the Democratic side. He is very far to the left on every issue, far more than Hillary Clinton is comfortable drifting. Furthermore, I assume he is actively trying to court support from Elizabeth Warren, another progressive rock star who has yet to commit herself behind a candidate.
Add the crowds to the poll numbers, and you’ve got a little bit of a race on your hands. More on the polls from Politico:
The left’s counter-candidate is gaining fast on Clinton in the Granite State, the site of her most uplifting 2008 victory and suddenly a source of worry rivaling her Waterloo that year — Iowa. Two polls this week showed the Vermont independent polling over 30 percent in his neighboring New England state, just 10 to 12 percentage points behind front-runner Clinton — a big leap from his 15 point to 18 point showing in various polls in recent weeks.
“I think because he is a little bit of a fringe figure in politics, people didn’t think we took him seriously, but we always did,” said a Democratic operative close to Clinton. “But we really do think it is the case. When you look at New Hampshire, Hillary herself in 2008 only got 40 percent … and it’s Bernie’s neighborhood.”
New Hampshire is essentially home field advantage for Sanders, who has spent decades in public officer next door in Vermont. If he can upset anywhere, it’s the Granite State. Time will tell if his support fades as voters realize his positions will not play as well with the general electorate as they do with the Democratic Party base.