Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is making another campaign-style trip through Iowa, with a book reading in Iowa City Thursday evening and a Friday night speech to members of the Iowa Citizens Action Network, a liberal activist group.
“Yes, of course, I am giving thought to running for president,” Sanders said during an appearance at Drake University earlier today.
With Hillary Clinton rumored to be delaying the official launch of her campaign ’til this summer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren still saying she’s not running, Sanders is drawing out some Iowa Democratic Party activists who are anxious to begin the next presidential campaign. Iowa Federation of Labor Ken Sagar said the party would be better off with a “competitive primary.”
“Having a primary brings out issues and people I think are connecting more with issues these days than with parties,” said Sagar, who has not publicly endorsed a candidate.
The 73-year-old Sanders, who is the longest-serving independent in congress, is tantalizing many in the Democratic Party’s progressive wing with his call for a “political revolution.”
“I think we need some fundamental changes in public policy so that the government of America begins to represent the middle class and working families and not just the billionaire class,” Sanders said Friday.
But since December Sanders has said he won’t run unless he senses a “grassroots movement” is brewing in all 50 states.
“If I were phenomenally successful in terms of fundraising and got, say, three million Americans to contribute $100 each, that is one-third of the amount of money that the Koch brothers themselves are going to spend,” Sanders said at Drake University Friday.
Sue Dinsdale, the Iowa Citizens Action Network’s executive director, said Sanders appeals to “left-leaning” Democrats who aren’t ready to back Clinton.
“If she does run, we need her to move to the left,” Dinsdale said shortly before Sanders arrived at her group’s event tonight. “We need her not to run as a far-right Democrat. We need someone who will work for the things that we all believe in.”
Chris Schwartz is the Iowa organizer of Americans for Democratic Action and he was even more blunt. Schwartz, who lives in Waterloo, faulted Clinton for failing to embrace the kind of “populist message” he’s hearing from Sanders.
“People have been turned off by what I would consider weak Democrats that are kind of ‘Corporate Lite,'” said Schwartz, who attended tonight’s ICAN event.
Yet a recent “Iowa Poll” conducted for Bloomberg Politics and The Des Moines Register found Clinton was viewed favorably by 84 percent of likely Iowa Caucus goers. Only one-third of those surveyed said they would favor an “anti-establishment” candidate in 2016 and a majority of poll respondents said they didn’t know enough about Sanders to even form an opinion about him.
Sanders plans to spend his Saturday in eastern Iowa, with speeches to two different audiences in Cedar Rapids before a mid-afternoon meeting with Cedar County Democrats at the courthouse in Tipton.