Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., delivered a stump speech Saturday at Iowa State to a crowd of 682, according to his campaign. Sanders addressed many of the economic issues he put forward during and in the wake of his 2016 presidential campaign, including college affordability.
Michael Fasullo, the Iowa field director for the Sanders campaign, was among several individuals who introduced Sanders.
“In 2016, we won in Story County by 19 points — we won it by 19 points,” Fasullo said. “We turned out hundreds of thousands of Iowans, and we came in a virtual tie in the state of Iowa.”
Ashton Ayers, treasurer of Students for Bernie at Iowa State and junior in political science, also spoke to introduce Sanders. Ayers encouraged rally attendees to caucus for Sanders.
“In just the past couple weeks, nearly 200 students have signed up to join the political revolution,” Ayers said.
Sanders took the stage alongside Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Cohen joked before Sanders ran for president, he was the most famous person from Vermont.
“Before Bernie, I never had a mayor who really represented my values, or a congressman, or a senator,” Cohen said.
The junior senator from Vermont touted Ben & Jerry’s as an example of a successful and profitable company run without being greedy, anti-environment or anti-worker.
Sanders said the economy is booming and unemployment is down, but when he asked the crowd whether that means it is booming for ordinary people, they responded with a no.
Since his 2016 campaign, Sanders has railed against the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Since then, he has called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, saying people who work 40 hours per week should be able to live comfortable lives.
Sanders discusses his successes in the 2016 campaign during rallies, drawing comparisons to President Donald Trump.
Dirk Deam, a senior lecturer of political science at Iowa State, said both Sanders and Trump are "demagogic" in their rhetoric to rally their supporters.
When discussing his proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, Sanders said his near 50 percent of the vote on Iowa caucus night in 2016 showed his proposal is not a crazy idea.
Sanders said the ages of 0 through 4 are the most important for childhood development, yet many American families cannot afford adequate childcare.
“We have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the industrialized world,” Sanders said. “Roughly speaking, about 20 percent of our kids are living in poverty. In minority communities that number is substantially higher.”
Tate Rasmussen, College Democrats treasurer and junior in political science at Iowa State, said it’s too early to support a candidate but his top three choices are Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former representative Beto O’Rourke. He said Sanders is right after them in his rankings of candidates.
“I do like Bernie, but he’s getting a bit older basically,” Rasmussen said.
Sanders, 77, is the oldest candidate in the Democratic field. Should he be elected president, he would be the oldest in American history.
Sanders said many Americans feel they cannot afford to go to college.
“I will never forget talking to a young doctor in Burlington who graduated medical school, now doing primary health care she graduated $300,000 in debt,” Sanders said. “You should not be punished because you want to get a higher education.”
Sanders supports making public colleges and universities tuition-free.
Eli Harvey, senior in genetics, said he was unsure why former vice president Joe Biden is the frontrunner in polling, citing Biden’s name recognition as a probable cause. Harvey said he identifies as politically left-wing, and Warren and Sanders are his top choices among Democratic presidential candidates.
Biden has a 19 percent lead among Democrats who identify as moderate or conservative, and moderate or conservative Democrats make up roughly 50 percent of the Democratic primary electorate.
“Just in terms of policy and experience, I feel, especially with Bernie, he’s had the same message for 30 plus years,” Harvey said. “Then Elizabeth Warren is just very qualified. She’s one of the top authors cited in bankruptcy law.”
The latest publicly available national opinion poll of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary found Biden in front with 44 percent, followed by Sanders with 14 percent support.
Towards the end of his stump speech, Sanders spoke of the 2020 general election.
“At the end of the day, I think you’re going to see all of the [Democratic presidential] candidates coming together around the winner [of the nomination] to make sure that Donald Trump is defeated,” Sanders said.