The pace of 2016 presidential hopefuls visiting Iowa has picked up in anticipation of party caucuses early next year.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is considering a run; as a progressive independent he’s courting Democratic support.
That’s what brought him this past weekend to Story County, located in central Iowa and home to Iowa State University.
A crowd of several hundred were on hand for the annual Soup Supper Saturday night, the Story County Democratic Party’s biggest fundraiser of the year. The turnout for the giant pot luck was in part thanks to the Sanders, the guest of honor.
At 31, Assistant County Attorney Adam Kenworthy is one of the younger people in the room. He likes Sanders’ views on education. Also, he says he’s not bothered that the Vermont Senator isn’t a registered Democrat.
“What bothers me is that people think Bernie Sanders is far to the left that whatever a centrist Democrat is, is what used to be a Republican, because he’s talking about economic issues,” Kenworthy said. “And things that matter to middle class people. So I think he has a lot of important things to say.”
Susan Norris, an elementary school art teacher, says she’s ready for Hilary Clinton. However she thinks Sen. Sanders running for president will keep Democrats honest.
“He is not so much Washington speak. He’s talking the straight talk. So that’s going to hold other people accountable to be really honest with the American people,” she said.
After about 300 Democrats have had some soup, the guest of honor takes the stage. He speaks about an hour, and seems to make a strong impression on many attendees.
“Anybody in my view who works 40 hours a week, should not be living in poverty,” Sanders said to cheers. “We need pay equity for women workers. Some of the women here seem to agree with that.”
As people file out, state Senator Herman Quirmbach is packing up his contribution to the evening’s meal.
“Hot and sour carrot soup, he says. “I had a lot of carrots in the refrigerator. What can I tell you?”
Quirmbach says Sanders did a great job connecting with the crowd, though he says running for president is always an uphill climb, especially when it comes to fund raising.
“A candidate who has a message that really reaches people and motivates people — that can overcome a lot of financial advantage or disadvantage,” he says. “You know it’s people who votes. It’s not dollars that vote. At least, that’s the way it still is in Iowa.”
Sanders is expected to make his decision on whether he will run for president next month. And some Democrats in Iowa hope he does.