On a weekend trip to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Denver, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) continued to focus on his core message of combating economic inequality — but he also covered less familiar ground: immigration and guns.
Speaking Friday at a Las Vegas conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Sanders argued that, as a son of an immigrant himself, he was as conversant on the subject as Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. From the Los Angeles Times:
After drawing heat from some Latino pundits in recent weeks for not talking enough about immigration, Sanders addressed the issue head-on Friday, matching Clinton's pledge to go further than President Obama in shielding from deportation immigrants who are in the country illegally.
A self-described socialist who has made growing class inequality the theme of his campaign, Sanders described immigration as an economic issue.
"We cannot continue to run an economy where millions are made so vulnerable because of their undocumented status," Sanders said, asking: "Who benefits from this exploitation?"
[H]e also took an apparent dig at Clinton without mentioning her by name.
“It was appalling to me that last year when the papers were full of discussion of the large numbers of unaccompanied children at the borders there were so many voices insisting they be turned away or simply shipped back to their country of origin like a package marked return to sender,” he said.
Last year, during the Southern Border Crisis, Clinton rankled immigration activists by saying Latin American children turning up at the border needed to be “sent back.”
(Read Sanders' full remarks at the NALEAO conference here.)
In the wake of last Wednesday's deadly shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., Sanders has been mum on the topic of gun control. As Seven Daysnoted last Thursday, it's a tricky subject for the rural Democrat.
When reporters raised the subject at a separate event Friday in Las Vegas, Sanders took "a cautious approach," according to CNN:
"I think the people of Vermont understand that guns in Vermont are different than guns in Chicago or guns in Los Angeles," Sanders said, telling the assembled journalists that he thinks "it is wrong" when people are "in some cases suicidal and in some cases homicidal" are "still being able to purchase guns."
Sanders, saying his home state of Vermont has "zero gun control," acknowledged that different parts of the country have different outlooks on guns.
"I think we need to have as serious conversation about that," Sanders said. "I think rural America needs to understand what urban America feels. Urban America needs to understand the culture of rural America. But I think together we have got to go forward to make certain that people who should not be having these weapons do not have them."
When CNN asked how his position differs from President Barack Obama's, Sanders "rejected the question," saying, "I will talk about guns at some length, but not right now."
Early Saturday morning, they filled the already blazing front yard of actress Mimi Kennedy’s Van Nuys home, and — at midday — the living room of long-time activists Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum’s sprawling Brentwood Park mansion, to hear the program of a candidate they see as everything Hillary is not.
On Sunday, Sanders drew one of the largest crowds of the 2016 presidential campaign to a University of Denver gymnasium. According to KDVR-TV, university officials estimated that more than 5,500 people showed up:
It was standing-room only in the gym, which held 3,000 people, while others listened in the adjacent atrium or watched in the lacrosse field outside, where his speech was displayed on the scoreboard, according to university officials.
Before he took the stage, Sanders’s audience in Denver was treated to a selection of recorded songs by classic rocker Neil Young. Earlier this week, Republican contender Donald Trump used a Young song, “Rockin’ in the Free World,” as he came on stage for his announcement. That drew a rebuke from Young, a Canadian citizen who said he is supporting Sanders.
Perhaps the biggest Bernie buzz of the weekend came not from the senator's appearances, but from the admission by a top Clinton surrogate, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, that Sanders might win Iowa's presidential caucuses or New Hampshire's primary. Here she is speaking to ABC's chief White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl, on "This Week":
KARL: I mean, I have to say, watching all these candidates, I don't think we have seen more enthusiasm for any candidate, Democrat or Republican, than we have seen for Bernie Sanders. So, Maria, what is going on if we have a situation — Hillary Clinton supposed to be coronation here, she now finds all of the energy in the Democratic primary is now with a 73-year-old self-described socialist from Vermont.
CARDONA: The media has always thought this was going to be a coronation. The Clinton campaign has never thought that this was going to be a coronation, and that's why she's fighting to earn every single vote.
Look, Bernie is from a neighboring state. We shouldn't be surprised that there is so much enthusiasm for him. And in fact, we shouldn't be surprised if he does very well in New Hampshire or in Iowa, and perhaps even wins.