US ELECTIONS 2016

Bernie Sanders uses local roots to appeal to New York voters

A Sanders supporter with a bird pin at a Wisconsin rally on Wednesday. Fans of the US senator have been using the bird as a symbol after one landed on his podium at a rally in Portland, Oregon, last week, prompting a chorus of "Birdie Sanders" tweets
A Sanders supporter with a bird pin at a Wisconsin rally on Wednesday. Fans of the US senator have been using the bird as a symbol after one landed on his podium at a rally in Portland, Oregon, last week, prompting a chorus of "Birdie Sanders" tweets on social media. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

NEW YORK • United States Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont kicked off his effort to win the April 19 New York Democratic presidential primary with a large, boisterous rally in the Bronx, highlighting his local roots and telling New Yorkers that he would work to make sure people have well-paying jobs, affordable housing and access to good public education.

Mr Sanders spoke to an estimated 18,500 supporters at St Mary's Park on Thursday night, vowing to provide more resources to the Bronx and other communities across the country. He also told supporters at the outdoor event that they would be critical to winning the nomination and to carrying out his policies.

"What this campaign is about is creating a political revolution," he told cheering supporters.

He also focused on his background, telling the crowd that his New York upbringing influenced his platform. "I learnt a little bit about what it means to grow up in a family that has no money and I also learnt a little bit about the immigrant experience - those lessons I will never forget," he said.

The event was one of the most diverse gatherings Mr Sanders has hosted in months, with many black and Latino supporters in the crowd chanting his name continually.

Mr Sanders' biggest challenge will be making inroads among minority voters. About one-third of likely Democratic primary voters in New York state will be black or Latino, and it will be critical for him to garner support among them, said Mr Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Mr Sanders said winning New York would mean a victory in the general election in November.

Mr Sanders grew up in Brooklyn, the son of an immigrant, watching a black-and-white television in a 31/2-room tenement.

His campaign strategy for New York is to focus intensely on how his upbringing in the city and his family's financial challenges helped shape him into a candidate intent on reforming Wall Street and addressing income inequality.

He will also use his personal narrative to try to persuade voters that his time in the state makes him a better choice than his rival Hillary Clinton, who is highlighting her years in the United States Senate representing New York.

Despite his local roots, Mr Sanders may face an uphill fight in New York.

A poll from Quinnipiac University released on Thursday found Mrs Clinton leading him by a margin of 54 per cent to 42 per cent. The poll showed Mrs Clinton doing best among women and older voters, with Mr Sanders beating her among men and "very liberal" voters.

But progressive candidates have a history of doing well in New York against opponents with backing from party leaders, said Mr Stu Loeser, who owns a media strategy firm and was a longtime spokesman for former mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Still, Mr Sanders' biggest challenge will be making inroads among minority voters. About one-third of likely Democratic primary voters in New York state will be black or Latino, and it will be critical for him to garner support among them, said Mr Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

If Mr Sanders wins New York, it will change the narrative of the race, Mr Miringoff said, adding: "Winning would create a story beyond the mere delegate count, which I think would propel his campaign."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2016, with the headline 'Sanders uses local roots to appeal to NY voters'. Print Edition | Subscribe