The increasingly powerful political clout of Sen. Bernie Sanders among likely Iowa caucusgoers as well as his appeal to younger voters was obvious to anyone who attended his final pre-caucus rally on Friday — which the Vermont independent himself could not attend because of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial that kept him in Washington, D.C.
Three days before the caucuses, signs are strong that Sanders is headed for a win. After narrowly trailing Joe Biden in polls of likely participants in the caucus, Sanders placed first in a just-completed American Research Group poll with 23% support. He was followed by Biden (17%), Sen. Amy Klobachur, D-Minn. (16%), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (15%).
A key figure in the survey is Sanders' runaway 46% support among caucusgoers aged 18-44. It is to this group, which historically comprises about 40% of caucusgoers, that Sanders' Democratic socialist agenda is highly appealing.
Their hero's absence did not seem to disappoint the more than 1,200 enthusiastic "Sandernistas" or the reporters from as far away as Switzerland and Spain who jammed the Horizon Events Center here in Clive, a suburb of Des Moines.
Liberal film producer Michael Moore warmed up the crowd by taking shots at a favorite target of Sanders supporters: the Democratic Party rules, which many believe were pivotal to their man coming up short against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presiential campaign.
Noting that the Democratic National Committee recently changed its rules to barr candidates who had not raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to participate in televised debates, Moore thundered, the "DNC will not allow Cory Booker on that stage, will not allow Julian Castro on that stage, but they're going to allow Mike Bloomberg on the stage because he's got a billion [expletive] dollars!"
Moore was followed by a panel of congresswomen that included two members of the House Democrats' radical "squad." Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — the latter joined in boos from the crowd at the mention of Clinton — explained that they're stumping for Sanders because he backs their agenda.
"Bernie [also believes] housing is a human right," declared Tlaib, who is sponsoring legislation for $12 million to provide new homes for the underprivileged over the next 10 years.
Among a crowd that was primarily college-age or 20-somethings, it was clear the Sanders message resonated.
"I backed him four years ago and I really like him," Jamie Wilkins, a school nurse from Des Moines, told Newsmax. "He feels strongly about issues such as climate change and universal Medicare. And I like his unapologetic attitude."
Wilkins' views were strongly echoed by Courtney Langel of Cedar Falls, who said: "I like everything he stands for — education, women's rights, and climate change."
Sanders' age of 78 meant little to his young fans. As Iowa State graduate Nick Schulze told us, "When someone's the best choice, the age doesn't matter."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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