Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Is Coming to Phoenix

Update: 7/14/15 8:00 p.m., the campaign just announced the event will no longer be at the Comerica Theater, and will now take place at the Convention Center

While we want to know what ice cream Ben and Jerry’s will inevitably name after Bernie Sanders, Sanders wants to know if you, the American voter, are “ready to start a political revolution?

As part of his campaign tour for the Democratic presidential primary, Sanders will stop in Phoenix and speak at the downtown Convention Center this Saturday evening. Sanders' event comes one week after an estimated 5,000 people showed up to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rally at the Convention Center, and so far, more than 3,000 people have registered to attend. Comerica Theatre holds 5,000.

Sanders, the longtime Democratic-Socialist Vermont Senator best known for his populist beliefs, will spend Saturday morning at the Netroots Nation’s 2015 convention — a gathering of progressive political activists — where he’s scheduled to take part in a town-hall-style meeting with former Maryland Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley. (Crescent Ballroom is hosting a free viewing party beginning at 10.)

A few hours later at his campaign event, Sanders will talk about his three core platform issues — income and wealth inequality, getting big money out of politics, and climate change — as well as how he plans to help make college more affordable. That's a topic  on the minds of the thousands of Arizona State University students who are seeing their tuition rates rise at the nation’s largest public university.

“I am so excited that you're coming to Arizona!!! I'll be there with bells on! Driving up from Tucson with my husband,” one Facebook user wrote on the popular event page for Saturday's speech, using the campaign hashtag, #FeeltheBern.

Few people across the country, however, think he really stands a chance of winning the party primary against Hillary Clinton — Rolling Stone political writer Mark Binelli called the odds "slim" that Sanders would be able to beat “an extraordinarily smart and driven opponent with 100-percent name recognition, more White House experience than arguably anyone who has ever run for office and access to obscene wealth… plus, of course, the thrilling possibility of offering voters the chance to make history once again and elect the first female president.”

A recent Gallup Poll found that only 50 percent of Americans said they would consider voting for a socialist presidential candidate. (When broken down by age, though, 69 percent of 18-25 year olds said they would vote for a socialist candidate, while only 34 percent of those 65 and older said they would do so.)

New Times could not find specific polling data detailing how Arizona voters feel about him, but Trump — who made fun of a lot of people last weekend, especially Hillary Clinton — didn’t even mention him, let alone any threat he felt from the aspiring Democratic candidate. Still, as political pundits are increasing pointing out, nationally, Sanders now has about 30 percent of Democrats saying they will vote for him in the primary. (Up from 5 percent in May, and 15 percent in February.)

But “in many ways,” Binelli wrote, “the most boring question about Sanders’ candidacy is the horse-race question.” What's exciting, the author believes, is the momentum of his campaign.

Approximately 10,000 people came to see Sanders’ speak at a recent event in Madison, Wisconsin, making it the biggest presidential political rally so far for the 2016 race.

Will he get that many this weekend? Will pro-Trump people come out and protest like many Sanders’ fans did last weekend? Who knows? But we’ll certainly keep you posted.

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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser