Sanders Rallies Rousing Tampa Crowd Of 9,000
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders concluded a state tour Thursday night at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. An estimated crowd of 9,000 packed the Expo Hall to hear the Vermont senator in this final push to Tuesday's presidential primary.
Many showed up hours ahead of the Tampa rally early to hear Sanders, including some Republicans. It capped a whirlwind tour of the state that included stops at the University of Florida in Gainesville and at Kissimmee.
Some arrived already supporting Sanders, like Mark Maxey, a firefighter and former Republican.
"I like Bernie's message. He's for me," he said. "I've got a kid going to college. I've got no problems taxing Wall Street so my kid can go to college."
Throughout the 40-minute speech, Sanders was clearly focused on next week's Florida primary.
"On Tuesday, there is going to be a very important primary here in Florida. If there is a large voter turnout, we will win," he said.
A receptive crowd cheered as Sanders spoke about climate change, low wages and women's reproductive rights, stances contrary to those of the Republican presidential candidates.
David Hogan is a registered Republican who attended the rally. He says he now is considering voting for Sanders if he beats former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the primaries.
"I was actually really surprised," Hogan said after the rally. "I didn't come in here hating Bernie Sanders or anything, but I did come in skeptical."
The environment and climate change were among the issues Sanders pushed in his 40-minute speech. He said Florida should be a leader in the world of producing solar energy:
"The state of Florida has an extraordinary natural resource. It's called sunlight," he said.
Sanders arrived in Tampa just hours after fellow Democrat and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a midday rally in Ybor City.
A CNN poll released earlier this week shows that Sanders trailed Clinton by more than 20 percent in Florida.