Democratic presidential candidate and current front-runner Bernie Sanders is coming to Phoenix for a rally this Thursday, his campaign announced on Monday evening.
The March 5 rally will be held at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum — the same venue where President Donald Trump held his own rally in mid-February — a week and a half before Arizona holds its presidential preference election.
Doors open at 4:30 pm, and while the event is free to attend, the campaign is encouraging people to RSVP.
The visit is Sanders' first of the 2020 presidential race to this battleground state, and he is scheduled to return again soon, for a Democratic presidential debate on March 15.
Sanders, a progressive and anti-establishment candidate, holds this rally in Arizona during a crucial and delegate-rich month in the race for the Democratic nomination. It also comes as establishment Democrats coalesce around Joe Biden, a moderate, following the former vice president's victory in South Carolina over the weekend.
Super Tuesday, when 14 states hold primaries, is March 3, with 1,357 delegates up for grabs (a candidate needs 1,991 to become the nominee). A week later, on March 10, six states will hold their primaries, worth 352 delegates.
Arizona holds its Democratic presidential primary on March 17, along with four other states. That day, Arizona's 67 delegates are up for grabs, out of 577 in total.
So far, Sanders is leading in the delegate count, but the lead he built after the primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada was cut into considerably over the weekend with the primary in South Carolina.
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On Saturday, former Vice President Joe Biden won in that state by a landslide, taking more than half the vote and prompting other moderate Democrats — billionaire Tom Steyer, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar to drop out of the race. (Klobuchar and Buttigieg have since endorsed Biden.)
Now, Sanders is coming to Arizona, a historically red state that's turning purple.
Another Democratic candidate, billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who did not compete in any of the primaries prior to March, has deemed Arizona key to winning the White House, in part because it is a battleground state.
So far, Sanders has hired two full-time staff members in Arizona and has "a very active volunteer base," spokesperson Joe Cavello said.