Jen Porter had been considering Bernie Sanders’ message for about three or four months. Then last month, on Good Friday, a small bird landed on the podium while Sanders was speaking at an event in Portland, Oregon.
“It was solidified on Holy Friday when that sparrow came and sent us that beautiful sign,” said Porter while standing in line to get into Thursday night’s Sanders rally at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Montgomery County.
A nurse from Delaware County, Porter said she supports him because he’s pledging to enact a universal, single-payer, government-run healthcare system.
“And I see how much money we could actually save if we gave people access to preventative care,” she said.
But after losing badly to Hillary Clinton in New York on Tuesday, political analysts say Sanders would need a small miracle to make up for his deficit in delegates — or to convince enough super-delegates to switch their allegiance to him at the Democratic National Convention this summer. So the big question is whether Sanders’ supporters are willing to get behind Clinton if she becomes the nominee.
“Her agenda’s better than the Republicans and so for that reason, I’ll do my part as much as I can for the party,” said Porter, who supported Barack Obama back in 2008 over Clinton.
Pro-Sanders voters reluctant to waver
Ted Uhlman, of Delaware County, said he would do the same, but he wouldn’t enjoy it.
“If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, I will hold my nose and I will vote for Hillary,” he said.
Rupa Desai, on the other hand, probably won’t. After more than 100,000 registered Democrats in Brooklyn were dropped from the voting rolls, the Montgomery County resident is more convinced than ever the deck is unfairly stacked against Sanders.
“I’m leaning towards just writing in Bernie at this point,” she said, adding she doesn’t trust Clinton and may even consider not voting at all in the general election.
And then, there are those still on the fence about whom to vote for in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary.
Gail Dean’s husband Dave is all-in for Sanders and she came to the rally hoping it would help her decide.
Dean said her big issue is healthcare. The Montgomery County family’s coverage was dropped when her husband lost his job after a work injury. They’re covered by the Affordable Care Act now, but it costs much more.
“We went from paying $125 twice a month to paying $810 a month for our family of three, so it was a huge financial shock,” said Dean, who is struggling to pick the candidate who has her family’s “best interest at heart and really can affect the change that our country needs, not just talking about it.”
Given the partisan divide in Congress, she isn’t sure yet whether Sanders can deliver on his promises or if it’s safer to bet her family’s future on Clinton.
Sanders doubles down
So what message did Sanders deliver to woo Pennsylvania voters? After taking a day to recharge back home in Vermont, Sanders hit the trail in Pennsylvania with town hall meetings in Scranton and Reading on Thursday.
At the evening rally in Oaks, he opened by quoting Vice President Joe Biden who told the New York Times Thursday he prefers Sanders’ campaign style to Clinton’s, while staying silent on which candidate has his vote. Then, using now-familiar rhetoric, the senator hammered home the differences between himself and Clinton on everything from campaign finance reform to climate change.
While Clinton supported natural gas development to help wean nations off coal when she was Secretary of State, Sanders wants to ban fracking outright nationwide and is proposing a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.
“Unfortunately, that is not the position of Secretary Clinton and on that issue we have got to recognize this is not a time for incremental change,” he said. “The future of the planet is at stake. We have got to be bold and we need a tax on carbon.”
On the campaign trail, Clinton has said she would only support fracking in areas where local government approves and safeguards are in place to ensure it is not poisoning people’s water wells. She suggested there would be very few places where all her conditions could be met.
Clinton abstained from attacking her opponent at an event in Philadephia on Wednesday — a sign she may be shifting her focus to the general election.
At Thursday night’s rally, Sanders did not acknowledge his long odds and urged his supporters to focus on the endgame: his “political revoution.”
“That is what this campaign is about,” he told the crowd in Oaks. “It’s not just electing a president. It is reforming, bringing real profound change to our country.”