Less than twen­ty-four hours after set­ting an atten­dance record with a huge ral­ly in Seat­tle, Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Bernie Sanders has done it again.

Every­thing came togeth­er quite nice­ly for Bernie’s vis­it to Port­land, Ore­gon, with an esti­mat­ed 28,000 peo­ple turn­ing out to hear his speech inside and out­side of the Moda Cen­ter in the Rose Quar­ter, the home sta­di­um of the Port­land Trail­Blaz­ers. That’s near­ly twice as large as yes­ter­day’s record crowd in Seattle.

“Whoa. This is an unbe­liev­able turnout,” Sanders remarked after begin­ning his address to the Port­land crowd. “You’ve done it bet­ter than any­one else.”

Bernie Sanders at Portland's Moda Center
Turnout for Bernie in Port­land was mas­sive (Pho­to: Bernie Sanders for President)

It helped that Sanders was in one of the city’s biggest venues.

Orig­i­nal­ly, Sanders was going to speak at the Vet­er­ans Memo­r­i­al Col­i­se­um, which only seats around thir­teen thou­sand peo­ple. But antic­i­pat­ing a mas­sive turnout, orga­niz­ers moved the speech to the Moda Cen­ter, which can accom­mo­date nine­teen thou­sand peo­ple in an opti­mal peo­ple-friend­ly configuration.

It’s a good thing they did.

Based on what we’ve read, Sanders’ Port­land speech was very sim­i­lar to his Seat­tle speech. He talked about get­ting big mon­ey out of elec­tions, tack­ling the cli­mate cri­sis by putting a price on pol­lu­tion, requir­ing a min­i­mum amount of paid sick leave, fam­i­ly leave, and vaca­tion leave, and get­ting rid of tuition to make col­lege acces­si­ble to mil­lions more young peo­ple. He also spoke of the need to give diplo­ma­cy a chance by stand­ing behind Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s accord with Iran.

No oth­er pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Repub­li­can or Demo­c­rat, has been draw­ing the kind of crowds that Sanders has. This week­end, in the Pacif­ic North­west­’s largest cities, audi­ences the size of cities showed up to hear Bernie. That’s a big deal.

Hillary Clin­ton had bet­ter believe that Bernie is quite capa­ble of mount­ing a cred­i­ble chal­lenge to her… not just in Iowa and New Hamp­shire, but states all over the coun­try. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty here in Wash­ing­ton has opt­ed to allo­cate its del­e­gates using cau­cus­es for 2016, and if Bernie is still in the race by late March of next year, he stands a chance of doing very well. Alas­ka and Hawaii Democ­rats will cau­cus on the same day that Wash­ing­ton does: March 26th, 2016.

Ore­gon, mean­while, will allo­cate its del­e­gates via pri­ma­ry late in the season.

Hillary Clin­ton gen­er­al­ly did bet­ter in states with pri­maries in 2008 when she and Barack Oba­ma were squar­ing off for the nom­i­na­tion. But that was­n’t always the case. Oba­ma won a num­ber of pri­maries held in the south­east and mid­west, and he also won the 2008 Ore­gon pri­ma­ry. In the end, though, it was his stel­lar per­for­mance in ear­ly cau­cus states like Wash­ing­ton that gave him an edge.

The big upside for Clin­ton is that there will be much more inter­est in the pres­i­den­tial race on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic side than there would be if she was run­ning unop­posed. A com­pet­i­tive pres­i­den­tial con­test presents an unri­valed oppor­tu­ni­ty for par­ty­build­ing. Sanders is already cap­tur­ing the imag­i­na­tion of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s base by run­ning a cam­paign built on bold ideas. Clin­ton may be con­sid­ered the estab­lish­ment can­di­date, but she’s free to run on bold ideas, too.

And she should. This cer­tain­ly sounds like a promis­ing devel­op­ment:

Hillary Clin­ton on Mon­day rolled out a sweep­ing high­er edu­ca­tion plan — a $350 bil­lion pro­pos­al that would help mil­lions pay for col­lege and reduce inter­est rates for peo­ple with stu­dent loans.

The plan, which would change the way a large swath of Amer­i­cans pay for col­lege, bor­rows ideas from the left and the right and even expands a pro­gram enact­ed by her husband.

It includes ideas already being dis­cussed in Con­gress and for which ground­work has been laid by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. The pro­pos­al, dubbed the New Col­lege Com­pact, is unlike­ly to win over many in the GOP because the $350 bil­lion over 10 years would come from cut­ting tax deduc­tions for the wealth­i­est Americans.

Bernie Sanders has talked about end­ing tuition, as men­tioned ear­li­er. For­mer Mary­land Gov­er­nor Mar­tin O’Mal­ley has, too. Now Clin­ton is com­ing out with a plan, which sounds achiev­able and realistic.

Even if it’s not as far-reach­ing as many pro­gres­sives would like, it would still do a lot for stu­dents, and we com­mend her for putting it forward.

If Clin­ton wants to draw the kind of crowds Bernie’s been get­ting, though (in Phoenix, Seat­tle, and now Port­land), she needs to be even bolder.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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