IOWA CITY — The Ben and Jerry’s was nearly gone before Bernie Sanders arrived for his own ice cream social, but no one wanting for change went away hungry.
The Vermont senator was about an hour late for his Iowa City rally because of a flight delay that forced him to drive from Chicago, but the delay didn’t seem to dampen his call for change or the enthusiasm of the crowd the campaign estimated at more than 800 people who greeted him with a chant of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.”
“The working class of this country is saying from coast to coast they are sick and tired of an economy that works for the 1 percent, and they are demanding an economy that works for all of us,” he said at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center in Iowa City.
Sanders then launched into his stump speech excoriating big banks, big oil, big pharma and big health care for their profits while millions are homeless, without health care and living paycheck to paycheck.
“Maybe, just maybe we should have an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent,” he said.
The ice cream social came as Sanders’ poll numbers have been sliding.
CNN and Quinnipiac University polls since the first round of Democratic presidential debates last week found that Sanders had fallen to fourth place behind former Vice President Joe Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
However, Sanders showed no concern when he took the stage. He expressed “absolute confidence” he will win the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, “that we are going to win the Democrats’ nomination and that we are going to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country.”
His campaign operatives said polls seven months before the Feb. 3 caucuses are no reason to panic. Mostly, a campaign operative said, the polls show that Democrats in Iowa and nationally are undecided. He pointed to a Suffolk University poll released Tuesday that showed Harris’ debate performance vaulted her into the No. 2 spot in Iowa. Biden led at 24 percent followed by Harris at 16 percent, Warren at 13 and Sanders in single digits at 9 percent.
The key number, he said, was that 21 percent of 500 likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers were undecided.
That wasn’t lost on Rose Persaud of Iowa City, who supported Sanders four years ago.
“I’m still with Bernie,” she said. Although Harris had an “awesome” debate, Persaud is encouraged because “everything that is being discussed are (Sanders’) issues.”
“He’s been fighting for these things his whole life,” she said about his advocacy for health care for all, college for all and canceling student debt, jobs for all and justice for all.
“It’s not so much that Sanders’ star is fading as that he’s being ignored by media,” added Tony Mulherin of Iowa City. “I’m going to ride it out. I’m not going to get off this roller coaster until the ride is over.”
Sanders reminded the audience that since he rolled out his so-called radical agenda in Iowa four years ago, “a whole lot of people have become radical.”
Seven states have adopted a $15-an-hour minimum wage, he said, and he predicted that within the next two weeks, the U.S. House will vote for a national $15-an-hour minimum wage.
“I hope you tell Sens. Ernst and Grassley that workers in America can’t make it on $8, $9 an hour,” he said as the crowd booed Iowa’s Republican elected officials.
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And another thing that has changed since 2016 — Sanders spent several minutes posing for selfies with his supporters.
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