"It is nice to have some Vermont weather here," Sen. Bernie Sanders told a crowd of 1,500 supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday evening. Under overcast skies and 40 degree temperatures, Sanders rallied his base before taking the stage at a major Democratic fundraiser, which featured more than a dozen presidential hopefuls.
Sanders began his speech to supporters with sharp criticism of President Donald Trump.
"The people of Iowa, the people of Vermont, the people of America, are sick and tired of a president who is a pathological liar, and who is running the most corrupt administration in the history of America," Sanders said.
But Sanders acknowledged his campaign is about more than removing Trump from office, and invoked some of his favorite talking points. Sanders said his campaign plans to "transform this country" by creating "an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just the one percent."
Sanders went on to outline his major initiatives: universal health care, free public college, and support of a "green new deal" to combat climate change. As he spoke about his climate plan, Sanders announced he’ll return to Iowa next weekend with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the young, liberal star who recently endorsed Sanders.
Sanders finished his policy speech by acknowledging former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of New York, who dropped out of the presidential race just hours earlier.
“And I want to thank Beto, who is a friend,” Sanders said. "Not only for running a principled campaign, but for understanding that we must end the horrific level of gun violence in America."
O’Rourke had made gun control a central part of his campaign. Sanders, meanwhile, did not outline specific proposals to combat gun violence, but said his administration would not be "intimidated by the NRA."
After Sanders' speech, the campaign orchestrated a march of supporters around a city block to Hyvee Hall, an event space across the street from the Wells Fargo Arena. The campaign billed the event as a "march to end corporate greed." Inside the arena, the Iowa Democratic Party threw its Liberty & Justice Celebration, an event formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.
Most candidates packed the arena's stands with their supporters, while donors dined at tables on the venue floor. But the Sanders campaign kept its supporters at Hyvee Hall, serving them food and drinks and live streaming Sanders' remarks, but not those of the other candidates.
While Sanders was cordial to the Democratic Party at the fundraiser, and promised a $20,000 donation from his campaign to the Iowa Democratic Party, "let us acknowledge we have some disagreements," Sanders said. He read a lengthy quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who Sanders said welcomed the opposition of moneyed interests. Sanders then promised if he is the party’s nominee, next year’s Democratic convention will not be funded by what the Vermont senator called “corporate interests and their lobbyists.” The line drew cheers from his supporters across the street.