Well, Bernie Sanders met Philly.
“We have what appears,” he said to enormous applause at Temple University tonight, “to be a loud, large and raucous crowd.”
Temple’s Liacouras Center that has 10,200 seats was filled and the floor was flooded with onlookers while thousands more people who waited in line for hours sat in an overflow room. Broad Street beforehand looked like a parade was going on. People poured into the arena over a span of nearly four hours to get through security. (For comparison, when Tom Wolf campaigned in the same place last fall with Mayor Nutter and President Barack Obama, there were tons of empty seats.)
So yeah, raucous is a delicate way of putting it.
The thousands of people who’d waited all day to get into the presidential candidate’s first rally in Philadelphia hung on Sanders’ every word. The Vermont senator hit on his usual points, railing against the campaign finance system he says favors the rich and rallying for workers rights and a national minimum wage of $15 an hour. He hit on the criminal justice system — “we need to end the militarization” — and promised that if he’s elected president, he’d expand public benefits like social security and Medicaid.
“What this campaign is about,” he said, “is asking the American people to think outside of the box, to think outside of the status quo, to understand that the status quo we have year after year after year can, in fact, change.”
But some of the biggest cheers of the night? Sanders’ cries for free college tuition and rewarding people who seek an education, which he says is not a “radical” but instead is a “commonsense” plan.
Sanders was in Philly on the heels of a yuge win in the Wisconsin primary when he picked up 47 delegates, bringing him to a total of 1,061 — he still significantly trails Hillary Clinton, who’s amassed 1,749. A Democratic candidate needs 2,382 to win a majority of delegates.
Tonight the Vermont senator emphasized momentum. And he has it. He’s won seven of the last eight contests between himself and Clinton and a Quinnipiac poll released today showed Clinton held a much smaller lead over Sanders in Pennsylvania than she has before. She stood at 50 percent while he had 44 percent.
“Secretary Clinton appears to be getting a little bit nervous,” he told the crowd at Temple. “She has been saying that she thinks I am quote, unquote not qualified to be president… I don’t believe that she is qualified.”
He went on to list reasons she’s not qualified: Supporting the war in Iraq, being in favor of “disastrous” trade agreements and taking millions of dollars from Wall Street through her Super PAC. But the New York primary awaits before Pennsylvania’s, and it’s widely thought that if Sanders can take our neighbors to the north, then we’ll have a contest on our hands. If not, it’ll be tough for him to make up ground here in PA on April 26.
Here’s a video of Sanders’ full speech:
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump was next on Sanders’ chopping block, and the senator promised the crowd that Trump would not become president.
“Coming together always trumps dividing us up,” he said. “At the end of the day, love trumps hatred.”
(Though it’s worth noting Sanders pulled a Trump move himself, railing against “the media” for their attempts to “get you to think small.” The whole arena looked back at us and booed. Thanks Bernie!)
Before throwing the massive rally at Temple, Sanders made a stop at the editorial board of The Inquirer and The Daily News — we don’t yet know whether he performed better than his sit-down with The New York Daily News editorial board.
After his stop in the newsroom, Sanders swung by Tindley Temple Methodist Church in South Philly for a town hall, question-and-answer type event. Al Dia News reporter Max Marin was there and reports Sanders hit on poverty, criminal justice and the war on drugs.
As for the crowd at the Temple rally, there were lots of dreadlocks and tye-dye. But there were also plenty of those neighborhood Philly people — nurses, teachers and, yes, students.
How young was the crowd? So young that there was beer being sold at the Liacouras Center and I didn’t spot a person holding one until after I’d been there for about 45 minutes or so. (But there was apparently some pot in the nosebleed seats.)
Sanders left the crowd with a final note: “On April 26, make sure Pennsylvania is part of the political revolution.”
The underdog candidate has reason to try everything in his power to win over Philadelphia voters. He’s surging in the polls this week and because of how the state doles out delegates, the stakes are high.
How Pennsylvania handles delegates for both parties is complicated. On the Democratic side, there are three types of delegates: pledged, unpledged and bonus. There are 189 pledged delegates, 21 unpledged delegates (those are the superdelegates you’ve heard about) and another 34 bonus delegates that the state basically gets as a prize for holding its primary later in the year and at a time close to the states next to it.
All told, the Keystone State will send 210 delegates to the convention in Philly this summer out of a total 4,764 delegates. And those unpledged superdelegates get to vote whoever the hell they want to at the DNC in July so the votes coming from those men and women are anyone’s guess.
Sanders will address the AFL-CIO Convention — yep, the same one Clinton spoke at today — tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.
Safe to say it won’t be as “raucous” as Wednesday night.