Trump Crushes Bernie's Rally Attendance in Key Swing State, But Battle Far from Over
After a disappointing performance on Super Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders hosted a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Thursday night which only drew around 7,500 people.
It was held in the same building that hosted President Donald Trump’s rally last month — one which attracted a considerably larger amount of people.
Trump may have attracted more supporters than Sanders, but the 2020 race in Arizona isn’t assured for the Republican president.
In 2016, President Trump won Arizona’s electorate votes, defeating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by a thin 3.5 percentage point margin.
Since the state has been historically red, the close results in 2016 proved to both the Republican and Democratic National Committees that their efforts would need to increase in order to secure votes for their respective parties in 2020.
Because of the state’s history, it came as no surprise that Trump’s rally on Feb. 19 drew so many attendees, some of whom were unable to find seats within the arena and instead filled the parking lot outside.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s re-election campaign manager, tweeted that over 67,000 tickets were requested, although not that many people showed up.
A large crowd of anti-Trump protesters also gathered along a designated free speech zone outside the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Some Trump supporters camped out in line more than a day before the event in order to secure their spot to hear the president speak.
National Anthem ?? pic.twitter.com/7oNjGXMvgl
— Kayla Kunkel (@KaylaKatWJ) February 20, 2020
Thursday’s rally, however, was relatively empty until after the program began. The Sanders campaign later said that nearly 7,500 people ended up attending the rally.
The balcony level was scarcely filled and the platform designated for news outlets was pushed closer to the stage on the ground level.
Even though the arena eventually filled up more, it was still a far cry from President Trump’s turnout: 7,500 compared to 45,000. pic.twitter.com/LqDPId2hSM
— Kayla Kunkel (@KaylaKatWJ) March 6, 2020
Wow! An incredible contrast between the crowd at President @realDonaldTrump’s rally two weeks ago and the crowd at Bernie Sanders’ rally last night. KEEP ARIZONA GREAT!! ?? pic.twitter.com/X6CY8ER5Sv
— Dr. Kelli Ward ?? (@kelliwardaz) March 6, 2020
It is important to note that while Sanders’ turnout was significantly lower, Trump likely drew a larger crowd because of his current position as president and because he is the only viable Republican candidate for president.
Sanders, on the other hand, is still going head-to-head against former Vice President Joe Biden, who won 10 states to Sanders’ four on Super Tuesday. Therefore, Democratic support is clearly still split.
While it’s hard to predict exactly how the difference in turnouts will translate in November, it does suggest that the 2020 race in Arizona may not be as black-and-white as some believe.
Both Arizona state chapters of the RNC and the DNC have placed extreme importance on the race within the state and increased canvassing efforts.
For both parties, complacency could be detrimental.
Former Georgia state representative and failed 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who has unabashedly voiced her interest in being the eventual Democratic nominee’s vice president, visited Arizona on Feb. 20
“Arizona is a major battleground in 2020,” she tweeted.
Arizona is a major battleground in 2020, and by turning out unlikely voters and protecting the vote, @azdemparty is poised to build on its success from 2018 to achieve victories up and down the ballot. Thank you to @SouthwestCarps Local 1912 & AZ Dems for the warm welcome! #azpol pic.twitter.com/qFR33FDKn8
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) February 21, 2020
Arizona GOP Chairwoman Dr. Kelli Ward has expressed a similar assessment of the state’s importance in the November general election.
Even as the Sanders rally began, she put out a statement that emphasized how Trump’s policies have directly impacted Arizonans.
“As avowed socialist Bernie Sanders takes the stage in Phoenix tonight, Arizonans should know of his radical proposals to eliminate private health insurance, raise taxes on the middle class, open borders, abolish ICE, and destroy a strong economy that is working for all Americans,” she said.
“Meanwhile, President Trump continues to deliver on his promises to provide more jobs, negotiate fairer trade deals, and lower taxes for the people of the Grand Canyon State.”
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