Government

Speed of success surprises Sanders

Senator plans Iowa grass-roots organization

Dan Williamson/Freelance

Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks last month during a rally outside his campaign’s Marion field office. In a taping Thursday of “Iowa Press,” Sanders said his message is resonating with voters.
Dan Williamson/Freelance Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks last month during a rally outside his campaign’s Marion field office. In a taping Thursday of “Iowa Press,” Sanders said his message is resonating with voters.

JOHNSTON — Even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is impressed with how quickly his campaign for an economy that works for working people has caught on in Iowa and elsewhere.

“The message is resonating,” the candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination said Thursday. “But to be honest with you, I did not believe we would end up with the huge crowds that we’re seeing here in Iowa, in New Hampshire, on the West Coast, all over this country.”

That’s despite Sanders’ assessment that when he announced his candidacy four months ago, it would have been “fair to say 80 or 90 percent of the American people did not know who Bernie Sanders was or what he stood for or the ideas he was advancing.”

He attributes the swell of support to his message and the fact that “people, I think, are sick and tired of establishment politics and establishment economics,” Sanders said while taping Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press.”

“I think most Americans understand that there’s something fundamentally wrong when the middle class continues to disappear, and almost all of the new income being generated goes to the top 1 percent,” he said.

Evidence that his message is resonating can be found in recent polls showing Sanders’ support surging in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first states in the nominating process. Sanders is drawing large crowds — 28,000 in Portland, Ore., for example — despite the financial and organizational advantages of other campaigns.

“If you had asked me, did I think that would be happening this fast, the answer is absolutely no,” Sanders said after the taping.

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However, the Vermont independent has been through enough campaigns to know that showing up at a meeting or campaign rally does not automatically convert to caucus-night support. So he’s building a grass-roots organization to run a traditional Iowa caucus campaign.

“I’m an old-fashioned type of guy who believes that at the end of the day — yeah, we’re going to do TV ads, radio and all that stuff — at the end of the day, face-to-face communication, people talking to other people about our ideas, is the best way we win,” said Sanders, who turns 74 on Tuesday.

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