Continuing to draw large and enthusiastic crowds wherever he goes, Sen. Bernie Sanders attracted approximately 9,000 people to a downtown sports arena in Portland, Maine on Monday evening as throngs of people—with a noticeable presence of students and young adults—waited for more than an hour in a line that stretched around the building in order to hear the presidential candidate's populist message.
Though the campaign only put the number at 7,500 in the crowd, those familiar with the building—which was filled to capacity or beyond—placed the number well over 9,000. Though not quite so many as the record crowd of 10,000 that turned out in Madison, Wisconsin the week before, many noted that the coastal New England city of Portland has less than half the population. And with other big turnouts recently in Iowa, Colorado, and elsewhere—this is becoming the new normal for the campaign.
"In case you didn’t notice, this is a big turnout," Sanders told the excited crowd as he took the podium. A longtime political observer in the state told this writer that never in his long history of attending rallies in the state—from Barack Obama to Bill Clinton to Jimmy Carter—did he ever see such an enormous showing for a presidential candidate at this stage of the campaign season—or possibly ever.
On the topic of the energy his campaign is generating, Sanders continued his speech by saying that national media outlets are increasingly asking him: "Well, Bernie, Why are so many people coming to your events? Why have hundreds of thousands of people in every state in this country volunteered to play a role in the campaign? Why have 250,000 people made small donations to the campaign? Why are grassroots organizations popping up all over America?—"
And at that moment, a young man in the crowd shouted: "Because you're right, Bernie, you're right!"
To which Sanders smiled and continued, "The answer, I think, is pretty obvious. From Maine to California, the American people understand that establishment politics and establishment economics is not working for the middle class."
And the American people, he continued, "understand that the greed of Wall Street and the greed of corporate America is destroying this country and people from coast to coast are saying, 'You can’t keep getting away with that.'"
Though the issue of economic inequality dominated his message, Sanders also took time to deal with a number of specific issues, including: low wages and the labor rights, student debt and higher education, women's rights and reproductive freedom; "real" family values that would include paid maternity leave, vacation, and sick time; the ongoing need for a single-payer healthcare system; and the necessary fight against climate change.
Watch the full speech:
As Sanders received numerous ovations and roars from the crowd as he marched through his issue-laden and populist-fueled speech, it was impossible not to notice that though the crowd was both large and diverse (in some ways anyway), the most significant constituency was represented by young people.
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As these Common Dreams photos from the event show:
And on Twitter—offering another gauge of the campaign's growing popularity—users remain impressed with the energy Sanders continues to generate:
— WCSH 6 (@WCSH6) July 6, 2015
Size of these Bernie Sanders crowds rival or beat what Romney got as nominee in 2012. They are astonishing: http://t.co/6pP0W1lQkc
— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) July 7, 2015
— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) July 7, 2015
— PressHerald (@PressHerald) July 7, 2015
— Sun Journal (@sunjournal) July 7, 2015