GOOSE LAKE — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn’t committed to a full-fledged presidential campaign in 2016, though he’s hinted at the possibilities. He spoke two months ago on national television about running.
He did it again Saturday in Goose Lake during the Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner. The event is the largest annual fundraiser for the local chapter.
Sanders hoped to rally party activists behind several county, state and federal races that will take place this fall. But with candor, he admitted being in rural Iowa was a chance to gauge the electorate and see if his views are the kind that can win over regional voters.
“It’s no secret I am giving some thought about the possibility of running for president,” Sanders said after his keynote speech. “Iowa plays a very important role in the process. I thought I’d come out here and see how people respond to the various views I believe in.
“The agenda I believe in is a very progressive agenda. And I want to get a sense from Iowa and the rest of the country if there is support for that agenda.”
Saturday’s stage was smaller than it will be if he throws it down in 2016. Over 200 local Democrats came to support the party platform, which at this point appears to be focusing on health care, education and job creation.
It wasn’t a campaign crowd, but Sanders said it spoke volumes about Clinton’s rural electorate.
“I very much enjoyed the people here,” he said. “I come from a very rural state as well. Small towns are not something new to us. It spoke volumes about the hard-working people who helped organize this event... I feel very comfortable in Iowa.”
Sanders was joined by U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and state Sen. Jack Hatch, a Polk County candidate for governor. The event also featured appearances by a number of local incumbents and candidates, including state Rep. Mary Wolfe, Sheriff Rick Lincoln, Supervisor John Staszewski and Statehouse hopeful Jay Saxon. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Bruce Braley sent video messages.