INDEPENDENCE — The 2016 caucuses will be “a bit of a milestone” for Maegan Sonksen.
“It’s the first time we’ve caucused and it’s for Bernie,” Sonksen said as she and her husband, Brian, twenty-somethings from Independence, waited for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to arrive at Heartland Acres in Independence Sunday afternoon.
Sanders made the case that it’s his ideas and his campaign that are generating the excitement that will attract the Sonksens to the Feb. 1 caucuses and to the voting booth in November.
Republicans win elections when Americans don’t vote as in 2014 when the GOP scored victories at the state and federal levels, Sanders said. That’s because 63 percent of voters stayed home, Sanders said.
Any objective observer, Sanders said, would say it’s his campaign that is exciting and energizing voters. More than 50,000 Iowans, including 4,000 Sunday, have attended a Sanders campaign events, he said.
“I believe from bottom of my heart, we are the campaign that can create the excitement among young, among working people, among people who otherwise might not vote,” he said. “If we get those people to vote, not only will we retain the White House, we’re going to win governor’s chairs all over this country.”
Sonksen has known since early in the campaign that she would back Sanders because “I had a good feeling about him and what he was saying. I’ve never caucused before because there’s never been a candidate that I was so confident about.”
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It was just recently that Steve Nunemaker of Newhall decided to caucus for Sanders rather than Clinton, but for reasons similar to Sonksen.
“He’s held the same platform all of his life. He doesn’t waffle,” said Nunemaker, who came out to the town-hall meeting “because I want to meet the next president.”
Sanders also had a message for Jennifer Blix of Vinton, who hasn’t decided whether to caucus for Clinton or Sanders, who she finds to be an “interesting guy … very realistic.”
“I’m for whoever can beat Trump,” Blix said.
That’s him, Sanders said. “Almost all” of the national polls show his lead over a Republican nominee to be larger than Clinton’s, Sanders told the crowd the campaign said was in excess of 500.
In Iowa, which not only hosts the first-in-the-nation caucuses, but is a general election battleground state, Sanders said polls show Clinton beating Donald Trump by 8 percentage points. He would win by 14, Sanders said.
The polls show Clinton losing to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 4 points, but Sanders winning by 5.
In New Hampshire, he added, the spread is wider, he said
Further evidence of the excitement he’s generating is the small-dollar contributions his campaign is receiving, Sanders said. So far, he’s received 2.5 million individual contributions averaging $27.
“I am pretty proud of that,” he said.
The Sanders campaign cited a CBS News Battleground Tracker poll released Sunday showing him leading Clinton by a single percentage point in Iowa and by 19 in New Hampshire.by calling for Iowans to join him in a political revolution. By caucusing for him they can “say that it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”
“Together we are going to take this country in a very different direction and that in fact we are going to make a political revolution,” Sanders said.
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The choice for Iowans, he said, is “which candidate is willing to stand up to Wall Street and the billionaire class and represent working families.”
According to the CBS poll, 91 percent of Iowa Democrats believe Sanders would pick regular people over big donors.
“What this campaign is about is transforming America,” he said. “The only way we can accomplish those goals … is to take on the greed of the billionaire class who want it all for themselves. That is what this campaign is about.”