Bernie's Recipe for Beating Hillary: Sanders Drawing Historic Crowds in Dem Primary History

The first poll showing Bernie Sanders actually leading Hillary Clinton in the crucial state of New Hampshire was released this week, and Sanders leads Clinton 44 to 37. A big part of this traction is coming from the enormous crowds that come away inspired, and the publicity stemming from these events.

If you compare that movement to the crowds that past Democratic primary contenders drew, it quickly becomes apparent that the size of the crowds Sanders is producing is historic. Here's a geographic comparison:

  • Seattle: In Seattle, Sanders brought out 15,000 people this month. Howard Dean, who ran an insurgent online-based campaign often compared to Sanders', produced 10,000 in August 2003. Interestingly, Barack Obama drew 18,000 in February 2008, just 3,000 north of the Sanders rally even though it was during the heat of the actual primary, not more than half a year away. Given the dynamics of the schedule of the primaries, this suggests Sanders is mobilizing more people in the city than even Obama did.
  • Portland: This month, Sanders drew 28,000 people in Portland, Oregon. Howard Dean netted 5,000 people in September 2003, in a rally the press called “enormous.”
  • Texas: In Texas, Sanders brought out around 10,000 people in Dallas and a similar number in Houston. Although these cities have some Democratic Party presence, they are not known as the more progressive cities in the state, like Austin. When Howard Dean visited Austin, his mega rally featured 3,200 people.
  • Wisconsin: In Madison, Sanders brought out 10,000 people. In the fall of 2003, later in the race, Howard Dean brought out 1,000 in neighboring Milwaukee.

These events show that Sanders has a powerful ability to mobilize tens of thousands of Americans at the drop of the hat. Both the events in Texas had less than a week of advertising and planning (ditto Los Angeles).

Sanders is basing his campaign around the idea of a “political revolution” in which he mobilizes millions of people. The aim is not just to win control of the White House, but to create an engaged army of volunteers to pressure Congress and other stakeholders after the election. His ability to mobilize voters at these political rallies is historic. The only other Democrat in recent memory who was able to match or exceed these crowd sizes is Barack Obama. Although crowds do not translate into organizers or voters, the imagery of Sanders' events around the country has to be making Hillary Clinton look over her shoulder.

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