February 23, 2020

Sanders Takes Obama Page with Capital City Rally
that Draws Thousands to River Park in Austin Heart

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Bernie Sanders kicked off an uphill quest to turn Texas blue on Sunday night at the same park on the Colorado River in downtown Austin that had been Barack Obama's launching pad into a presidential race that he ended up winning in the face of long initial odds a dozen years ago.

Fresh off a commanding victory in the Nevada Caucuses, Sanders brought his progressive salvation show to Auditorium Shores on the stretch of the river that's known as Lady Bird Lake where thousands of fans turned out to cheer him on with the Texas Super Tuesday primary election just eight days away.

Sanders appeared to have about 6.000 people in the Capital City audience that was about 75 percent of the size of the crowd that had gathered there for Obama's first Austin event in 2007 when he'd still been an unofficial candidate on the brink of a formal announcement. The U.S. senator from Vermont fired them up with promises to celebrate his first day in the White House with executive orders that would legalize marijuana and repeal immigration policies that he ripped as racist and blamed squarely on President Donald Trump.

Sanders pledged to end the war on drugs while calling for significant gun restrictions and an aggressive approach to climate control with protections to help oil and gas industry workers make the transition into new fields. The 78-year-old solon who lost to Hillary Clinton in the primary four years ago characterized Trump as a chronic liar who's been an embarrassment to the nation and the world.

Sanders sought to defuse skepticism among party establishment forces about his viability in a general election clash with Trump - declaring that he would carry Texas in March en route to a victory at the ballot box nationwide this fall.

The rock star treatment that Obama received at the Austin river rally in the run up to his first White House bid didn't translate into an eventual victory in the primary election in the Lone Star State the following year when Democrat Hillary Clinton beat by 3 percentage points with almost 51 percent of the vote. But Obama had a superior organizational effort that made it possible for him to leave Texas with more national convention delegates than Clinton as a result of subsequent voting at precinct conventions after the primary polls closed here in 2008. n

Sanders - unlike Obama - is heading into the final week before the Texas first-round vote as the favorite here and across the nation after narrows wins in the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary election before finally creating substantial distance between his campaign and the rest of a Democratic pack that's been in reverse in recent weeks.

But Sanders isn't a lock to emerge triumphant in Texas where the field has a new wild card in its midst with Mike Bloomberg breaking from the gates belatedly next week with a heavy focus on Super Tuesday as his first test at the ballot box. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, is spending millions of dollars on television advertising in Texas where he's already running as high as third in some polls after passing rivals who had major head starts like Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttiegieg.

The Sanders and Bloomberg surges have appeared to come at considerable expense to Joe Biden - the former vice president who'd been leading by a wide margin in polling in Texas until the actually voting got under way early this month in the midwest.

The highly-respected online publication FiveThirtyEight has bumped Sanders odds up in Texas in the wake of the Nevada performance with a Sunday forecast that had him winning 28 percent of the primary vote on March 3 and 43 percent of 228 pledged delegates.

The FiveThirtyEight projection for Texas tonight has Biden claiming 19 percent of the primary vote here and 25 percent of the pledged delegates. FiveThirtyEight had Bloomberg on track for a second place finish next week in Texas before dropping him to third with 18 percent of the round one vote and 21 percent of the delegates.

Warren, who staged at a rally in September at the Auditorium Shores, is projected by FiveThirtyEight to finish fourth here next week with a mere 12 percent despite early gains that she'd appeared to make in the nation's most critical battleground state last fall.

more to come ...


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