WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (UPI) — Democratic presidential nominee hopeful Bernie Sanders attracted some 28,000 supporters at a campaign stop Monday, making him the biggest draw on the campaign trail so far and the biggest current threat to Hillary Clinton‘s chances of scoring the nomination.
On his recent three-day West Coast swing, Sanders drew a crowd of 27,500 in and outside the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, 28,000 in Portland and another 15,000 in Seattle. That’s in addition to the some 11,000 in Phoenix, 10,000 in Madison, Wis.; 8,000 in Dallas; and 4,500 in New Orleans.
Even more interesting are the huge crowds building as a result of social media and word of mouth, promoted by like-minded local groups in the cities he visits, without any paid advertising by the campaign in expectation of the 2016 election. He also landed his first major union endorsement from National Nurses United.
While such early success is no guarantee the 73-year-old Vermont senator – a self-proclaimed socialist – will perform well in the end, he is drawing attention away from Clinton, long considered the cinch for the Democratic nomination. Clinton’s campaign said her largest crowd was 5,500.
Monday night’s rally began with the campaign’s new national press secretary, Symone Sanders (not related to the candidate) talking at length about racial injustice. Just two days before, Sanders canceled his speech in Seattle when protesters from Black Lives Matter took over the microphone.
“It is very important that we say the words ‘black lives matter,’ ” Symone Sanders said. “But it’s also important to have people in political office who are going to turn those words into action. No candidate for president is going to fight harder for criminal justice reform and racial justice issues than Senator Bernie Sanders.”
Actress Sarah Silverman added a little bit of Hollywood glitz to the evening by introducing the candidate as a 1960s-era civil rights activist who supports gay rights and opposed the Iraq war.
“Bernie always seems to be on the right side of history,” she said.
In other star-studded Sanders news, California rapper Lil B, born Brandon McCartney, reversed his long-standing support for Clinton after he heard about Sanders’ history of civil rights advocacy.
“No one’s really been saying anything about Hillary Clinton besides that she’s a woman and running for office,” the rapper said. “Once the people started telling me about Bernie Sanders and comparing what he was doing back in his younger days and what she was doing, it made me kind of look at her different — not really respect her as much as I thought.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, South Carolina Sen.Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former New York Gov. George Pataki, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and real estate tycoon, reality TV star Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have announced bids for the Republican nomination.