8 Ways Bernie Sanders Is Making Surprising Gains On Hillary Clinton, And People Are Noticing

With huge crowds turning out to see him at rallies in several states, and a snappy hashtag #FeeltheBern devised by his supporters, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the surprise star of the 2016 presidential race so far. While Sanders' fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton still enjoys a comfortable lead in polls, there's now talk of Sanders giving the presumed favorite for the Democratic nomination a run for her money. Initially viewed as a long shot against the much larger and more organized campaign of his main competitor, Sanders is making surprising gains on Clinton and has nevertheless sounded confident at rallies in recent weeks.

Sanders is known for his fiery rhetoric and speaking style, frequently railing against what he views as economic inequities and social injustices. He has taken aim at the banking system on numerous occasions, telling CNN in 2012 that instead of Congress regulating Wall Street, as it's supposed to, "The real truth is that Wall Street regulates the Congress."

So how does Sanders stack up against his most formidable rival for the Democratic nomination? He doesn't seem concerned, and, in fact Sanders said recently he wants people to compare the differences between himself and the former Secretary of State. "I suspect we're going to be in disagreement very often," Sanders told CNN. "That's what campaigns are about."

It's not clear yet whether Clinton should be worried about "Bernie-mentum" as his supporters call his surge in popularity, but it does seem that Sanders ought to be more than a blip on Hillary's radar. He's sounded off recently on a host of issues that show if he's not caught up to Clinton yet, it might not take long until he is.

He's In It To Win It

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At a breakfast meeting with reporters last week, Sanders dismissed suggestions that his is not a "real" campaign, The Hill reported, and he's not just out to make a point. He is actively pursuing the Oval Office. "This is not a protest campaign. This is a campaign to win."

He Really Dislikes The Ultra-Wealthy

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The socialist-minded Sanders has made billionaires a frequent target of his disdain during campaign speeches. In a visit to the University of Denver on Sunday that drew more than 5,000 people, Sanders made his view on the rich pretty clear, The Denver Post reported: "What we are doing tonight is we are sending a message to the billionaire class and that is: You can't have it all!"

He's A Staunch Supporter Of The Working Class

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Pension reform may not seem like the sexiest issue, but Sanders views it as a matter of fairness. He spoke angrily at a union rally in Washington, D.C. against a plan to allow deep cuts to some employers' pension plans, The New York Times reported. "The very least that we can do is to keep our promises to people who worked and earned their pensions," Sanders said.

He Has A Different View On "Family Values"

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This is a particularly hot-button issue for Sanders: The idea that what have become widely known as "family values" are anything but. He told The Huffington Post he wants to take back the phrase "family values" from the right wing of the GOP. "What the Republicans talk about when they speak of family values is to deny a woman the right to control her own body, to deny a woman the right to get contraceptives, opposition to gay rights and gay marriage," Sanders said. "I don’t think those are family values."

He Doesn't Approve Of The GOP's Idea Of Immigration Reform

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Sanders was criticized for what some observers viewed as lack of attention to immigration issues in his stump speech, which focuses heavily on the "billionaire class." But in Iowa last weekend, Sanders answered questions about what his policy on immigration would be, Bloomberg reported. "We need a rational immigration process, not the Republican alternatives of self deportation or some other draconian non-solution," he said.

He's A Long-Time Advocate On Environmental Issues

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After Pope Francis spoke out calling for action to deal with climate change, Sanders reiterated his stance on environmental issues. "I hope they listen to what he has to say," he told The Huffington Post. "Denying the science related to climate change is no longer acceptable."

He Likes To Say He Is "Practicing Democracy"

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It seems like he might be throwing a little shade at Clinton when he makes that statement, but he's definitely not interested in politics as usual. The Associated Press reported Sanders told an audience in Des Moines he was going to be straightforward with them. "What I'm doing in this campaign is trying to tell the people the truth, but it's a truth which is not heard a whole lot in Washington or discussed a lot in the media."

He Called Out Hillary On Trade Policies

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Sanders will probably take on Clinton directly more often as the campaign begins to heat up. He called her out for being unclear on her position on trade policies, saying she needs to make her stance known, The New York Times reported. "Trade policies have been disastrous," he said. "If she’s against this, we need her to speak out, right now."

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