Bernie Sanders hits the 2020 campaign trail with rockstar status, a far cry from the start of the 2016 campaign

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont just made a three-day visit to Iowa as his 2020 campaign for the presidency picks up steam.
  • Sanders’ held rallies across the state, the site of the first big presidential primary contest in the nation – the Iowa caucuses.
  • When the senator campaigned in Iowa as part of his 2016 campaign roughly four years ago, he was an obscure figure. Fast-forward to 2019, and he’s among the top candidates for the Democratic nomination for president.

DES MOINES, IA – Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is back on the campaign trail as he makes yet another run for the presidency, but there’s something different about him this time around – he’s considered a top candidate and is already drawing in big crowds.

“When I first came here to campaign in 2015 not a whole lot of people knew who I was, nobody took our campaign seriously, and we were at 3 per cent in the polls,” Sanders said during a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

To Sanders’ point, a Quinnipiac University poll in late February 2015 showed Sanders with just 5% support in Iowa and 56% of voters in the state said they didn’t know enough about the Vermont senator at the time.

Sanders made three campaign stops in Iowa this past weekend, hitting multiple parts of the Midwestern state. Iowa is the site of the first major presidential primary contest.

The Vermont senator visited Council Bluffs, Iowa City, and Des Moines.

INSIDER was on the ground for each rally as Sanders spoke with voters in a state he referred to as the place where “the political revolution began” in 2016.

Here’s how Sanders first visit to Iowa along the 2020 campaign trail unfolded.


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Read more:
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Read more:
Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign slogan is a direct rebuke of Trump’s 2016 message of ‘I alone can fix’ America


Sanders’ first rally in Iowa on Thursday was in Council Bluffs, not far from the Nebraska border.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

As attendees waited for the senator to take the stage, a band kept them entertained.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA musical act performs at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

People of all ages attended the rally — college students, senior citizens, and families with children.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA young girl holds up a Bernie Sanders sign at a rally for the presidential hopeful in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

Dan Griffith, 36, a volunteer at the rally from Prairie Home, Nebraska, was particularly excited to be there. Griffith told INSIDER he supports Sanders because he’s been “saying the same thing for the past 30 years and he’s right” on issues like climate change and raising the minimum wage. He also said President Donald Trump’s policies are “total bullsh–t, we’re better than this.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERDan Griffith, 36, at Sen. Bernie Sanders rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

The room was fairly sleepy until Sanders took the stage, and then the crowd exploded as he asked, “Are you ready for a political revolution?”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders takes the stage at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

Sanders began by referring to Trump as “the most dangerous president in modern American history.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

“Donald Trump wants to divide us up by the colour of our skin, our country of origin, our gender, our religion and our sexual orientation,” Sanders said. “We are going to do exactly the opposite.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

When the crowd chanted his name, Sanders interrupted and shouted, “Not me, you!” This is linked to his 2020 campaign slogan: “Not me. Us.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a rally for his 2020 campaign in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

At one point in the rally, Sanders was interrupted by a man in the crowd as he began to say, “Tonight, we say to Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry…” The man shouted, “F–k you!” This prompted laughter. Sanders paused and said, “Well, that is one way of phrasing it. I, myself, was gonna say it a little differently. I am a senator.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a 2020 campaign rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

The man who yelled, Terry Anderson, 53, of Omaha, Nebraska, told INSIDER his outburst was inspired by his belief that Trump is a “black stain on the face of the American society.” Anderson, who also identified himself as “Tie-dye Terry,” said he’s a big Sanders supporter but is also a fan of other 2020 Democratic candidates like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERTerry Anderson, 53, of Omaha, Nebraska, at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

Sanders told the crowd that when he began his 2016 campaign, he was not well-known and his ideas were dismissed as “too radical.” Just a few years later, Sanders claimed a majority of Americans now embrace his views and “shock of all shocks, those very same ideas are now supported not only by Democratic candidates for president but by Democratic candidates all across the board.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally for his 2020 campaign in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

Sanders’ speech in Council Bluffs, which was similar to the subject addresses he delivered in other parts of Iowa, focused heavily on issues he spoke a great deal about in 2016: climate change, health care, and wealth inequality. But he also focused a lot on topics he was criticised for not addressing enough last time around: racism and racial justice.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a rally for his 2020 campaign in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

“We are also going to address the racial disparities that exist. It is not right that white families have 10 times more wealth than black families … We are going to end institutional racism wherever it exists,” Sanders said to a mostly white crowd (in a predominantly white state). He got big cheers for this line.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA campaign rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders on March 7, 2019, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Sanders ended his first Iowa rally with a message of unity: “If we stand together, this country has an extraordinary future. Let’s make it happen.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 7, 2019.

Sanders’ second rally in Iowa was at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Most of the attendees were college students who made their anti-Trump sentiments abundantly clear.

John HaltiwangerAttendees of a Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 8, 2019.

Freya Buhr, 19, of Clermont, Iowa, is such a big fan of Sanders she attended his rally on her birthday. Buhr told INSIDER she supports Sanders because he’s “always been on the right side of history” and is a “feminist.” She also thinks Sanders is a “strong leader” and “the kind of person we need with the current political discourse in America.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERFreya Buhr, 19, at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa City, Iowa.

Sam Johnston, 18, of Forsyth, Illinois, told INSIDER he supports Sanders because he’s “fair,” “reliable,” and he trusts the senator to “follow through” on his campaign promises. When asked if he’s at all concerned by the fact Sanders is 77 and would be the oldest president in US history if elected, Johnston said “age range doesn’t matter” because he “just knows our values and shares them.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSam Johnston, 18, and Anthony Schulte, 19, at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa City on March 8, 2019.

Anthony Schulte, 19, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, told INSIDER he supports Sanders because “nothing is more important to me than climate change.” Schulte, who came to the rally with Johnston, added that it matters to him Sanders is “not in bed” with Wall Street and big corporations.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 8, 2019.

Aluna Olaniyi, 18, of Fairfield, Iowa, told INSIDER she supports Sanders because “the ideals he believes in I also believe in. She added, “[Sanders] has held the same values for a long time, so he’s obviously not wishy-washy.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERAluna Olaniyi, 18, at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa City on March 8, 2019.

When Sanders took the stage and announced he’s running the campaign that will “defeat Donald Trump,” the crowd went wild.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a 2020 campaign rally in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 8, 2019.

Sanders went on to say that Trump “embarrasses” the US every day. The youthful crowd booed at the mention of Trump’s name.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 8, 2019.

Sanders went after Trump hard in his speech, stating Trump doesn’t really stand with “working people.” He referred to the president as a “pathological liar” who “rejects science.” Meanwhile, people wearing hats in support of Trump could be spotted in the crowd.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERTwo attendees of a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 8, 2019, wear hats showing support for President Donald Trump.

“I say to Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry: climate change is not a hoax, but is an existential threat to our country and the planet,” Sanders added. The crowd exploded.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 8, 2019.

Climate change was apparently such a big issue for Iowans that some attendees of Sanders’ rallies wore shirts expressing their concern about it.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA man wearing a climate change-themed t-shirt at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 8, 2019.

After Sanders wrapped up his speech in Iowa City, he walked off the stage and took selfies with attendees. Meanwhile, people in the crowd shouted,”We love you, Bernie.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa City, Iowa, on March 8, 2019.

Sanders’ final Iowa rally was in Des Moines, the state capital. It was a rainy day but that didn’t stop people from coming out. A Sanders campaign aide told INSIDER roughly 1,400 were in attendance.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.

Like Sanders’ other rallies, the day started off with some live music as the crowd waited for the man of the hour to take the stage.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.

One of the first speakers at Sanders’ third Iowa rally was Abshir Omar, a Somali Muslim refugee. Omar told the harrowing story of his mother’s flight from conflict in his native country when he was a child. “Bernie Sanders makes me believe in the promise of America,” Omar went on to say. “The same promise that got my mother to America.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERAbshir Omar speaks at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.

Sanders took the stage after another speaker. Early on his speech, he addressed a concern linked to his 2016 campaign: “If we do not win, I will strongly support the Democratic nominee and hope and believe that other people feel the same way. Donald Trump must be defeated!”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.

In his Des Moines speech, Sanders continued to touch on similar themes, and took a direct jab at Trump: “I don’t come from a billionaire family. My parents didn’t give me a $US200,00 allowance when I was 3-years-old. My family knew what it was like to live paycheck to paycheck. I know where I come from, and I will never forget that!” Sanders had employed the same rhetoric at his 2020 kick off rally in Brooklyn, New York, a week earlier.


Sanders avoided getting personal in 2016, but he’s started to touch more on his working class, Brooklyn roots in the early days of his 2020 campaign.


Sanders’ speeches in Iowa were filled with the same firebrand, progressive rhetoric that typified his 2016 campaign, but with sharp criticism of Trump sprinkled in. At the Vermont senator’s Des Moines rally, at least one or two of the president’s red ‘Make American Great Again’ hats could be seen in the crowd.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.

As Sanders spoke in Des Moines, a dedicated crew of sign-wavers made their affinity for the senator quite clear.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.

Other attendees carried signs expressing their concern about climate change.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERAn attendee of a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders holds up a sign on climate change in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.

Sanders’ Des Moines speech focused on issues impacting rural communities, including suicide rates and declining life expectancy. “If I’m elected president, we’re going to start paying attention to rural America,” Sanders said.


Speaking on wealth inequality, the crowd in Des Moines went wild when Sanders said, “We have the people…They might have money and power, but there are a hell of a lot more of us than them.”

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERA rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 9, 2019.

After Sanders finished his speech, he went down to greet and speak with people in the crowd. The senator took selfies with and hugged some of the attendees.


Sanders three-day visit to Iowa showed that he is a top contender among the large field of candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination. In roughly four years, the senator has gone from a relatively obscure member of Congress to one of the most influential political figures in the country.

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