Sanders thanks Iowa voters for giving momentum to progressive agenda

Sanders thanks Iowa voters for giving momentum to progressive agenda
© Greg Nash

AMES, IOWA — Speaking in Iowa on Sunday ahead of a possible 2020 presidential run, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWomen's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated MORE (I-Vt.) thanked voters in the state for showing that his progressive policy ideas resonate with the public.

Sanders narrowly lost the 2016 Democratic Iowa caucuses to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDershowitz to The Atlantic: Do not violate Constitution to safeguard it Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated GOP Rep. Tom Marino resigns from Congress MORE, a result that he called a “tie” that fueled his campaign that year. Sanders ultimately lost the nomination to Clinton but received millions of votes.

“Why it was important in terms of what Iowa did in that very first caucus, is that it showed the American people that the ideas that we were talking about were not radical ideas or extremist ideas or ideas that were outside of the mainstream,” Sanders said at a rally at Iowa State University.

“So it started off in Iowa and it went to New Hampshire and it went across the country. And ideas that just three years ago were perceived to be radical and extremist ideas are now ideas that are supported by the vast majority of the American people. Thank you Iowa,” he added.

Sanders spoke about several of his policy ideas that have gained traction in recent years, including a $15-per-hour minimum wage, tuition-free public college and "Medicare for all."

He said he understands that people may have voted for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow during 2016 campaign: report DC train system losing 0k per day during government shutdown Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees MORE in 2016 because they felt like they were being ignored by Washington but that Trump is a “pathological liar.”

“This president has no political beliefs,” Sanders said. “He is [an] opportunist of the worst kind.”

Sanders also criticized Trump for “using his bully pulpit to try to divide us up.”

“I say to President Trump that this country has struggled for too many decades, for too many centuries, in the fight against racism and sexism and homophobia and religious bigotry. We have fought too hard against people who are trying to divide us up,” Sanders said. “President Trump, we are not going backwards, we are going forward as one people.”

Sanders campaigned at the event for J.D. Scholten, the Democratic nominee seeking to unseat GOP Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingSteve King's primary challenger raises more than 0k in first 10 days of campaign GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism Iowa newspaper apologizes for endorsing Steve King, calls for resignation MORE in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, and Deidre DeJear, the Democratic nominee for Iowa secretary of state.

Sanders, Scholten and DeJear all encouraged the attendees, many of whom were college students, to vote in the midterm elections and to get their friends and family members to do so as well.

“If we did nothing more than have people 30 years of age or younger vote in the same percentages as the general population, we can transform the United States of America,” Sanders said.

King criticized Sanders on Twitter earlier in the day.

Scholten responded to King’s tweets, criticizing King for not debating him.

Scholten faces an uphill battle in the race, which the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates “likely Republican.”

But he said Democrats can win in rural areas by reaching out to people and proving that they will fight for them.

“We live in the land of ‘if you build it, they will come,’” he said. “If you build the right campaign and earn votes, get out there and earn votes, they will vote for you. If you build the right campaign that creates buzz, Sen. Bernie Sanders will come.”

Scholten was introduced at the event by Hill.TV anchor Krystal Ball, who has a PAC that endorsed the Democratic congressional candidate.

The rally in Ames came at the end of Sanders’s trip to Iowa to campaign for Scholten. Earlier on Sunday, he participated in a town hall with Scholten that was focused on Social Security and marched in Iowa State’s homecoming parade. He also held a rally with Scholten Saturday in Sioux City.

Sanders is in the middle of a nine-state tour ahead of the midterms. Prior to the stops in Iowa, he was in South Carolina, another state with an early nominating contest in 2020.

Sanders isn’t the only potential Democratic presidential candidate who has been spending time in Iowa in recent days. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) was also in Iowa this weekend, and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOcasio-Cortez's first House floor speech becomes C-SPAN's most-viewed Twitter video Kamala Harris says her New Year's resolution is to 'cook more' Harris to oppose Trump's attorney general nominee MORE (D-Calif.) will be in the state on Monday and Tuesday.

Scholten’s campaign said about 800 people attended the rally in Ames.

After the rally, Scholten said he’s grateful for Sanders’s help. The congressional candidate said he hasn’t had time to think about whether Sanders is going to run for president again, but added that “if he wanted to, I think it’s there for him.”