Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders plans to appeal to Wisconsin’s progressive roots during his visit to Madison on Wednesday.
“Wisconsin has a long, long history — from the time of Bob La Follette to others who went before him and went after him — of being one of the most progressive states in America,” Sanders said during a call with reporters on Tuesday morning. “And the message to the people of Wisconsin is, I think today you’re seeing the rebirth of a strong national progressive movement.”
Sanders, who announced his candidacy on May 26, has been drawing large crowds at events around the country. So far, more than 9,000 people have RSVPed to Wednesday night’s event at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Alliant Energy Center, his campaign said.
The venue's capacity is just over 10,000.
“I think it’s possible that the turnout we’ll have will be, in fact, the largest turnout that we’ve had in the campaign so far,” Sanders said.
The Vermont senator, who is positioning himself as the liberal alternative to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, has recently gained traction in polls, including in the key state of New Hampshire. A WMUR/CNN Granite State Poll released last week found Sanders within eight points — which is inside the margin of error — of Clinton.
“I think the reason that we’re getting large turnouts all over this country … is that people are anxious to hear about the truth and the reality about what’s happening in the American economy today,” Sanders said. “I think what the American people want to see is a candidate that’s prepared to stand up to the billionaire class … (who says) that we need a progressive agenda.”
Sanders said he believes his platform, which includes raising the minimum wage and championing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, will “resonate in Wisconsin.”
In fact, Sanders came in a close second to Clinton in a straw poll taken at the Wisconsin Democratic Party convention earlier this month. He received 41 percent of delegates’ votes. Clinton received 49 percent.
“I’m very gratified and appreciative — that was a very strong showing,” Sanders said.
While he acknowledged the straw poll “is not absolutely scientific” (straw polls can skew toward base voters), Sanders said “I think we’re going to do very well in Wisconsin.”
In response to a question about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who's expected to officially announce he's running for president in July, Sanders, a self-described socialist, firmly positioned himself on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
“Based on his record as governor of Wisconsin, needless to say, I’m strongly opposed to his agenda,” he said. “I think we need leadership in this country that stands up for working families, that is prepared to take on the big money interests today that have so much power and so much influence, that we need to strengthen the trade union movement in this country, not break it. I suspect that Governor Walker’s views are very different than that.”