Bernie Sanders Iowa Rally Highlights 'Energy

WATERLOO, Iowa — With a day to go until the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders spent the first part of his speech to about 1,200 people there comparing his campaign with that of Hillary Clinton.

“It is fair to say that of any objective assessment of Secretary Clinton’s campaign and my campaign — she has some really good people, I am not knocking her — but I think the excitement and energy is with our campaign,” he said.

In his closing argument to voters, Sanders is still laser-focused on delivering what he sarcastically calls a “radical” concept. “We are telling the Americans the truth,” he says.

But he’s also focused on soothing concerns that he will not be electable should he be the nominee.

At his speech, he pointed out that although she led the latest Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll, he is just three points behind, compared to 41 points eight months ago. A Clinton-supporting SuperPAC raised $45 million, he noted; he says they have “raised zero for our SuperPAC,” and instead have collected a record 3.2 million individual contributions.

Then he went into the list of polls in states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, where he does better in match ups against Donald Trump than she does. Sanders and Trump don’t share much policy in common, but they are both political disrupters, now trying to close the deal with voters.

It’s not hard to notice that Sanders is aiming for some of the same organizational and messaging magic that propelled Barack Obama to defeat Clinton in the Iowa caucuses in 2008. Sanders’ slogan is “A Future to Believe In”; Obama’s was “Change We Can Believe In.” Sanders is depending on heavy turnout from college-age students and young men and women in their 20s and 30s.

At this event, someone from the crowd shouted, “We love you Bernie,” the same type of calls that would greet Obama (and, it should be noted, also are being shouted at Trump).

Sanders isn’t Obama, but his speeches, focused on his populist message, are laced with a tad more humor and even a few personal details, like mentions of his wife and his sons.

He even caught himself in an awkward moment, when talking about the Affordable Care Act.

“But. And this is a big but…” He paused, the crowd laughed, and he added, “I didn’t mean it that way.”

The crowd got its most excited when he talked about free college tuition and refinancing debt at lower rates, as well as the message of income inequality that drew unexpected attention back when he got in the race in April, when, as he notes, people joked about his hair (which he also shares in common with Trump).

“One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40% in this country,” Sanders tells the crowd, in a style that arcs with emphasis on the most outrageous statistics to prove his point.

Ann Grove, 56, who specializes in refugee support for a community action agency in Waterloo, said that she thought long about whether to support Clinton or Sanders and recently decided to caucus for Sanders.

“I have gone back and forth to be honest the last few months, but thought I think a lot of his ideas will be hard to implement. Fundamentally he believes in a lot of the same things I do, and that is a respect for the individual no matter how much money you have,” she said. “You have a respect for the power for the people, which is what this country is all about. And a willingness to challenge the status quo, which at this stage of his life is pretty impressive.”

She likes what Clinton did as secretary of state for refugees, but had misgivings of a “husband and wife duo” in the White House. “I just have a problem with that. I don’t think that is where we as a country want to go,” she said.

Tom Rounds, 67, a retired human resources director from Cedar Falls, said that he would probably caucus for Clinton. He is volunteering for AARP.

“I love what he says, I just hope he can get it done. It is going to be really difficult,” he said. “Even though it is incremental, there is more of a chance of some of the things that she is pushing for can get done.”

Even though Sanders talks about his position in the polls against a Republican opponent, Rounds said, “Hillary has been through the fire. The Clintons have been through it. It is going to be really tough. Republicans haven’t started on the ‘socialist president of Sweden’ thing to the extent that is going to happen this fall if Bernie is the nominee. It’s going to be hard. Even if Hillary is it, it is going to be hard.”

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