Why Are Bernie Sanders' Crowds So Huge? He's Breaking Records Left & Right
Feeling the Bern? If you aren't, a whole lot of people sure are — 28,000 to be exact. On Sunday, the Vermont senator drew a crowd of 28,000 to a rally in Portland, Oregon, according to NBC. The turnout was the largest yet in the 2016 race, breaking the previous record ... which was also set by Sanders. How is Sanders attracting record-breaking crowds?
Hillary Clinton has long been seen as the favorite for the Democratic presidential nominee, and Sanders the clear underdog. But Sanders has been gaining some serious traction in recent weeks: Although most polls show Clinton in the lead, Sanders has been rising. According to a poll by Monmouth University released Tuesday, support for Clinton has dropped since December, while Sanders has gained support. In the all-important state of New Hampshire, a recent University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll shows that Clinton and Sanders are in a "statistical tie."
At his record-shattering Portland rally, Sanders greeted the crowd with, "Whoa, This is an unbelievable turnout." Unbelievable is right. According to CNN, the Portland arena couldn't even house all the people lined up — more than 19,000 filled the room, while an estimated 9,000 were outside. Why are so many people going to Sanders' rallies? What's behind his record-breaking events?
At a Madison, Wisconsin rally earlier this summer, 24-year old Bethany Ragains explained that Sanders has given her newfound political inspiration. The Chicago suburban native told CNN, "I felt like, this time, I want to be more of a participant in the election than I have been in the past ... I really felt a connection with Bernie on the issues. He makes me want to get more involved."She's not the only one citing a fresh political interest. At a Sanders rally in Phoenix, a 29-year-old stay-at-home mom explained to the Washington Post, "In the last 10 years, I've felt I've had no reason to vote or focus on politics ... I love that he doesn't take corporate donations, that it's all about being elected by the people."
She's right on the corporate donations — Sanders has denounced super PACs, saying “I don’t have a super PAC, and I don’t want a super PAC." He has gained financial support primarily through donations on his website. According to Politico, he's raised millions on his website with an average donation of just $40.
Other Sanders' supporters bring up Clinton as a reason to endorse Sanders. Claire Met, an attendee of Sunday's rally in Portland, told CNN that she thinks Sanders is more responsive than Clinton. She sad, "He listens I think more than she does. She seems more out of touch."
Even though Sanders is sometimes seen as the clear underdog to Clinton, the thousands who attend his rallies say they haven't given up hope. At his Phoenix rally, 50-year-old Brett Berry told the Washington Post that people were there because they were "hungry." He continued, "Some of our liberal friends have given up because they don't think [Sanders] has a realistic chance. I get tired of hearing that."Some have cited Sanders' story as Obama-esque. At a Sanders rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Savannah Kramas, 26, told The Guardian, "He’s reminiscent of Obama in that he breaks the mold of what we’ve seen election after election with presidential candidates."So obviously, Sanders is driving traffic to his rallies really just by existing and acting in a way that's getting some people excited. His next rally is Monday in Los Angeles. In anticipation of the event, Curtis Chin — a member of the grassroots group Asian Americans for Bernie Sanders — told the Los Angeles Times, "He's really trying to change the system," she said. "We need a government that works for the people, and I really think he'll do it."