On a wintry afternoon in Concord, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, held his first New Hampshire rally of the 2020 presidential campaign. More importantly, more than 1,000 people showed up - despite a moderate snow fall - to demonstrate their belief in the man they are convinced is fighting for them.
About two years after his surprisingly strong showing in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, Sanders is still an unlikely candidate. Under normal circumstances, in a pre-Trump political world, the news media would write him off as a fringe candidate. The difference is, this time, he can claim he was right. His new campaign slogan, "Hindsight is 2020," says it all.
In his first speech to New Hampshire voters, Sanders told his supporters that because of their work, the rules of the Democratic nominating process have changed and most of the major candidates running for the party's nomination are supporting issues he first raised in 2016. We are all socialists now, is the big picture message.
Unlike other campaign events I have covered in New Hampshire since the start of the year, the audience in this case has made its choice. Rallies for other candidates feature polite crowds, listening carefully, but unwilling to commit.
There is a sense that Sanders supporters feel they were robbed last time around, mainly by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment, and if the rules had been fair, Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump and the world would be a much different place. They are out to correct a historic error.
When it comes to message, Sanders has not changed his agenda or his rhetoric. He says he is speaking for the average American who is increasingly being left behind by income disparity and a system rigged to favor the wealthy and the connections their money can buy.
The audience carries the weight of grievance. Bernie is their hero. Their eyes ask for help in a battle they feel they cannot win alone.
© Dean Pagani 2019