US election: Sanders’ last-ditch effort against Clinton

New York votes in primary seen as key for Republican, Democratic frontrunners Trump and Clinton after string of defeats.

Bernie Sanders rally in Manhattan
Bernie Sanders held a rally near Manhattan's Central Park [Ted Regencia/Al Jazeera]

New York – Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has made a last-ditch effort to defeat frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in New York, rallying his supporters in record numbers across the state with his populist message against poverty and “Wall Street greed”.

A day before the primary voting opened on Tuesday, Sanders crisscrossed New York City, visiting a public housing complex, addressing striking workers with his promise of a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and firing up a crowd in Queens, in a part of the city, where he needed a boost from minority and working-class voters.

Reporter’s notebook

Voters in some New York neighbourhoods are reporting the polls have been a disorganised mess. 

Some have had their ballots rejected after machines didn’t scan properly. O thers say they arrived early to vote before work only to find the polls hadn’t opened when they were supposed to. Yet  other voters say they arrived to find long lines. 

High voter turnout is a good sign for Bernie Sanders according to his campaign. A  month ago his team said he was 48 points behind Hillary Clinton. Now, according to most polls he is less than 10 percentage points behind.

Still, Hillary Clinton expects this to be a good night for her. She’s setting up for what she hopes will be a victory party in NYC’s Times Square.  She’s hoping to stop Bernie’s momentum, as he’s won the last eight of nine contests.

Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Times Square, NYC

“Tomorrow, New York State can help take this country a giant step forwards for the political revolution,” Sanders said from a raised podium, the glimmering skyline of the city serving as his backdrop.

“Corporate America will not continue to cut the wages and benefits of their workers, will not continue to send jobs to low-wage countries, will not continue to destroy our environment,” the senator told a crowd of about 3,000 on Monday night.

US primaries: Who will take New York?

Last Sunday, Sanders also attracted a record-breaking crowd of more than 28,000 in Brooklyn, another part of the city, where he was born to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland. And on Wednesday, an estimated 27,000 people showed up at his rally in lower Manhattan, not far from Wall Street, which he blamed for the financial collapse in 2008.

Art Swift, managing editor at Gallup polling, said that Sanders has the “momentum” leading up to the April 19 vote, but it is unclear whether he has enough time to overcome the lead of Clinton, a former New York senator.

Like other states where Sanders won against Clinton, he is getting more support in New York from younger people, white voters, and is strongest among white males, Swift told Al Jazeera.

“I think Bernie Sanders is saying the things that appeal to them: Free college, erasing student loans, taking on big banks, taking on Wall Street. These are very appealing to a population that is jaded and frustrated with the way the government is now,” Swift said.

John Keefe, a volunteer for Sanders, told Al Jazeera that he flew all the way from the state of Florida to campaign for his candidate in his former neighbourhood. He said that he believes Sanders can overtake Clinton’s lead.

Why Muslim Americans should vote for Bernie Sanders

But Swift said Clinton’s lead in the polls will “probably hold on the day of the primary”, adding that New York’s “racially diverse” population tilts in her favour.

“Women, older Democrats, African Americans and minorities are propelling her to win,” he said. Gallup’s tracking poll interviews 1,000 people a night.


Clinton is also supported by New York’s top political leaders, including the state’s governor, two senators and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

At his rally on Wednesday, Sanders himself acknowledged that the New York primary “is a tough race”, and urged his supporters to show up at the polls, saying: “I think we’ve got a surprise for the establishment.”

Jay Newton-Small, political reporter and Washington correspondent for Time magazine, said that even in Clinton’s stronghold of New York, Sanders enjoys more enthusiasm from voters. But Newton-Small also predicted Clinton would prevail.

Aside from the Democrats, Republicans also hold their primary on Tuesday, with leading candidate Donald Trump, a New Yorker, expected to win.

Source: Al Jazeera