WATERLOO -- Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders appealed to voters in Waterloo on Saturday as a new poll showed him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden among Iowa Democrats.
The 77-year-old U.S. senator from Vermont fired up a large crowd at the National Cattle Congress Pavilion, earning huge applause for his progressive platform including single-payer health insurance and free college tuition while attacking climate change and income inequality.
"We're going to have to take them all on," Sanders said. "We're talking about Wall Street; we're talking about the fossil fuel industry and the insurance companies and the drug companies and the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex and the corporate media — all the the power that is out there trying to preserve the status quo."
A Des Moines Register/Mediacom/CNN Iowa poll released as Sanders was speaking found Biden was supported by 24 percent of likely participants in the Feb. 3, 2020, Iowa Democratic caucuses, followed by Sanders at 16 percent.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., earned 15 percent and 14 percent respectively. None of the 19 other declared Democratic hopefuls cracked 10 percent.
But Sanders believes his campaign stands the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump, who he called the worst president in U.S. history and a habitual liar.
"Our campaign, unlike perhaps other campaigns, will have an energy and excitement that I think this country has never seen before," said Sanders, noting he believes it will attract young progressive voters to the polls.
His comments about working with world leaders to reduce fossil fuel emissions to slow climate change earned the largest round of applause during the 45-minutes speech.
"Maybe instead of spending a trillion and a half dollars every year on weapons designed to kill other people, maybe we should invest in transforming our energy system and saving the planet for our children and grandchildren," he said.
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Sanders still has a lot of support in Black Hawk County, where he defeated eventual Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Mikal Pepperling of Cedar Falls caucused for Sanders in 2016 and was selected to sit behind the senator during this speech.
"We've got a lot of issues in this county with race, education, climate change, corrupt politicians," Pepperling said. "He's the one person standing out speaking about the establishment. All the establishments are against him, but people are standing with him."
Weston and Trevor Krug, twin brothers who attend Wartburg College, also attended the rally after caucusing for Sanders in 2016.
"I really appreciate his progressive views, especially those about climate change," Weston Krug said. "Those are important to me specifically."
While Weston Krug said he is still leaning toward Sanders in 2020, Trevor Krug said he's likely not supporting the senator. "But I'm really open to hear perspectives from everybody," he said.
Waterloo City Councilman Pat Morrissey is a longtime supporter who introduced Sanders in the Pavilion. He noted Sanders has consistently supported progressive policies and working people long before some of his new progressive challengers came along.
"For several decades these issues … have been on his plate and in his fight on behalf of us," Morrissey said. "He hasn't let us down in the past and he's sure not going to let us down when he gets to the White House."
Unlike his last visit to Waterloo in 2016, Sanders took time after the speech to visit with voters and pose with them for photographs.