- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders tested out his stump speech at a town hall meeting Tuesday, receiving enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation from the crowd with his calls to tax the rich and expand the federal safety net and benefits for other Americans — but most voters won’t hear about it.

Approximately 200 people filled a union hall in Washington’s Maryland suburbs to hear Mr. Sanders and voice support for his liberal agenda. Most of the national news media, however, didn’t take the 45-minute drive from their Washington bureaus to cover the event.

Only a couple of reporters, two still photographers and a lone cameraman from NBC News feeding raw footage back to the bureau showed up.

The lack of interest underscored the part of the difficulty Mr. Sanders faces as he tries to get out his message and mount a challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is the only other candidate officially in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The uphill battle for Mr. Sanders to achieve relevance was not lost on the audience.

“These ideas that we’re talking about here today are ideas that a lot of people, the people in charge don’t want talked about because they are dangerous and they represent a real challenge to their power structure,” a young man told Mr. Sanders during a question-and-answer session.

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“What are your plans for harnessing the energy from people like the ones here?” he asked.

Mr. Sanders vowed to go around traditional media, using social media and grass-roots activists to get his message out. And he said he was confident that his agenda was powerful enough to overcome the long odds.

“What I believe in my heart of hearts is that the ideas we talked about resonate across this country,” said Mr. Sanders.

Indeed, Mr. Sanders entered the race with a bigger splash than many expected.

In less than a week, Mr. Sanders‘ campaign website has enlisted more than 200,000 volunteers across the country. He also raked in an impressive $1.5 million during the first day of his candidacy.

Mr. Sanders got some of the biggest applause railing against “income and wealth inequity” that he said leaves most American families struggling to get by and just one car accident or major illness away from financial ruin.

“We have the wealthiest country on earth and yet the vast majority of American people don’t see the wealth,” he said.

He said the concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent of American families was “obscene, grotesque and it is unsustainable and basically it is un-American.”

Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent and a self-identified socialist, proposed massive federal jobs programs and spending $1 trillion on infrastructure projects, raising the federal $7.25 per hour minimum wage to a $15 per hour “living wage” and making health care a right for all Americans.

At the end of the town hall meeting, a crowd of supporters gathered around him and trailed him out of the hall.

Mrs. Clinton remains the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination. She captured an intimidating 62 percent of the Democratic primary vote in the Real Clear Politics average of recent national polls.

It showed Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has repeatedly said she is not running, trailing with 13 percent, followed by Vice President Joseph R. Biden at 10 percent, Mr. Sanders at 6 percent and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia with less than 2 percent.

Mr. Sanders has tested Mrs. Clinton’s allegiance to the left’s agenda and her efforts to woo the party’s liberal base.

His campaign immediately increased pressure on Mrs. Clinton to pivot to the left, as Mr. Sanders trumpeted the same agenda embraced by the party’s liberal activists.

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