Bernie Sanders rally in downtown Portland draws big crowd – OregonLive.com
A crowd of about 1,000 people turned out in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland Saturday to support Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
Sanders was more than 1,700 miles away in Iowa, where he was scheduled to speak Saturday evening. But his absence didn’t dampen the spirits of his supporters, who gathered under sporadic showers and cloudy skies for the rally, one of dozens taking place across the country to coincide with the Vermont senator’s Iowa speech.
The event drew a diverse crowd with a creative bent. Middle-aged canvassers wandered about trying to secure the signatures of young voters for ballot initiatives. Fathers walked around with children strapped to their chests in Baby Bjorns.
More than a dozen speakers addressed the crowd – some focused on Sanders’ policy stances to fight income inequality, environmental crises or social issues. A couple speakers had connections with the Vermonter that dated back decades.
Portland Commissioner Steve Novick took the podium to praise the U.S. senator as a straight shooter. “If [Ronald] Reagan can come out of right field to destroy America, Bernie Sanders can come out of left field to rebuild America,” he said.
State Rep. Rob Nosse said working families in Oregon are struggling. “The bottom 75 percent of us saw a decrease in our real income between the decade of 2002 and 2012,” the first-term state legislator said.
Though more than 2,400 people indicated they planned to attend the rally on Facebook, organizers seemed surprised by the turnout.
A balloon-animal station entertained younger kids– some had painted catchphrases on their faces.
One of the more popular features was a “Be the Bern” photo opportunity created by David Pritchard.
The 19-year-old built a station where people put their face through a hole, complete with Sanders’ signature glasses and tufts of white hair. Pritchard said the project took him seven to eight hours. “I think he’s got a great attitude,” Pritchard said of Sanders.
The top policy issue for many in the audience was the nation’s growing income inequality.
Simone Gee, 25, said she’s supported Sanders from the beginning of the campaign. “I think it’s really important going into the election that we have somebody who cares about that [income inequality].”
Phillip Shey, 62, drove in from Cascade Locks to attend the rally, hopping on a MAX train downtown to avoid the traffic. “You can’t starve everybody out to feed the top,” he said.
Shey said he likes Hillary Clinton, and would support her over any Republican candidate, but he’s turned off by her “business ties.”
The Iowa Caucus is Feb. 1, and the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist is in a pitched battle with Clinton for the party’s nomination. Sanders has opened up an eight-point lead in the crucial first-in-the-nation voting state, according to a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday, where he leads the former secretary of state 51 percent to 43 percent.
In December, Clinton was leading by 18 points, or 54 percent to 36 percent, CNN reported.
In a webcast streamed to supporters around the country Saturday, Sanders decried economic inequality and a “corrupt campaign finance system.” Sanders outlined “a real path to victory” if he can capture Iowa and New Hampshire, followed by strong showings in the Nevada and South Carolina primaries.
“We are in the process of doing something that nobody every, every dreamed could happen,” Sanders said.
Improved poll numbers notwithstanding, political handicappers still rate Sanders a longshot. The prediction markets — whose rankings outperform polls in forecasting election results at early stages — give him a 17 percent chance of winning the Democratic nomination and just an 8 percent chance of winning the general election.
When Sanders visited Portland last August, some 28,000 people attended the Veterans Memorial Coliseum rally and speech.
In case you missed the rally, see our tweets from Saturday’s event: