Bernie Sanders, Superstar
AMES, Iowa—Much of the political world spent Tuesday covering Jeb Bush, blowing the dust off of Bushworld notebooks and discovering why the man who said no in 2008 and 2012 was finally ready to be a front-runner.
I spent Tuesday with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The independent, a self-described democratic socialist who caucuses with Senate Democrats, flew into the greater Des Moines area for a day of speeches and meetings, some open press and some closed. He is not coy–he is considering a progressive presidential bid, and the full story of this will be told in a separate piece. (He's not interested in Bush, either, reacting to his exploration of a presidential bid by shrugging and saying "He'll be the first of many.")
For the moment, the appeal of Sanders to Iowa's beleaguered Democratic voters can be seen in this video from Ames. After a 30-minute speech, based on notes the way a Christopher Guest movie is based on a "script," Sanders took questions from an audience of college students, lunch-breakers, activists,and retirees who wanted him to run. Here was how he answered a fairly direct question about that; he gave similar answers to reporters.
And here was how Sanders navigated the crowd afterward. He was mobbed by some of the 250-odd attendees as soon as the speech ended. After a few dozen got photos, Sanders received a check, written on the spot, from a passionate supporter. That's how the video starts.
You'll notice that Sanders banters with voters, celebrates their Vermont ties–"half of Vermont is here!"–but does not get overly involved with conversations. That's largely so he can get to the AP's Tom Beaumont and Des Moines Register's Kathie Obradovich, who had an interview scheduled. But it's also his style. There is little glad-handing about Bernie Sanders. And there were plenty of sit-downs he had to get to on Tuesday, with the sort of organizers whose willingness to meet him is meant to send signals to Hillary Clinton.