U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the progressive provocateur who energized young voters in his 2016 Presidential campaign, rallied Thursday alongside Rep. Jacky Rosen and other Nevada Democrats urging voters to turn the state blue.
“In a week and a half there is the most important midterm election in the modern history of this county, and what I beg of you is to not only go out and vote for Jacky Rosen, bring your uncles and your aunts and your friends and your coworkers. This is going to be a close election,” Sanders said.
The Vermont senator returned to Nevada and spoke at the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts to crowd of about 850. Earlier in the day he and Rosen rallied in Reno.
The Las Vegas rally had many of the fixings of a 2016-style Sanders campaign appearance, with chants of “Medicare for all” and raucous applause repeatedly breaking out throughout his speech.
Sanders told the crowd that in order for Democrats to recapture the Senate chamber and gain enough seats for majority control, Rosen would need to replace Republican Dean Heller.
Polls and analysts’ projections indicate a tough uphill fight for Democrats to net the two additional seats needed to regain majority control of the Senate, and virtually any winning scenario depends on Heller losing.
Sanders’s speech, which was heavy on criticism of President Donald Trump, described a political system controlled by billionaires and corporations that fill the airwaves with political ads paid for with dark money.
“American democracy means one person one vote, not billionaires buying elections,” Sanders said to open applause.
Sander’s message at the rally followed similar themes from his 2016 presidential campaign: a $15 minimum wage, free tuition for public colleges and universities, lowering student loan debt, single-payer health care, campaign finance reform, addressing climate change.
Rosen preceded Sanders with a speech that sharply criticized her opponent for his record on health care, attacking Heller over attempts to repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act after promising he would not support a full repeal. Rosen said he “caved to pressure from, Republicans, Mitch Mcconnell and his billionaire donors” and would not serve as a check on the Trump administration.
“He is guilty of the biggest broken promise in modern Nevada history he clipped, he broke his promise and he voted for repeal,” Rosen said.
In a few instances the audience interrupted Rosen’s speech, chanting “Medicare for all.” Like many moderate Democrats, Rosen has not embraced extending Medicare to the population, though she does support a public option that would allow people to buy into federal health care programs. As the Affordable Care Act was working its way through Congress in 2010, several Democrats called for including a public option in the bill, but it was discarded to secure support for the overall bill from Sen. Joe Lieberman and some Democratic senators in red states.
Rosen didn’t respond to the chants of “Medicare for all,” and moved along with her brief remarks. Rosen was not on the stage when Sanders was speaking, and Sanders was not on the stage when Rosen was.
Rosen also criticized Heller for his part in writing and passing the Republican tax bill late last year. The centerpiece of the bill slashed corporate tax cuts from 35 to 21 percent, and both government and independent analyses indicate the benefits of the tax cuts are skewed heavily to big business and the wealthiest Americans.
“His tax plans added nearly two trillion dollars to the national debt and now he wants to, with his Republican friends, to cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for it,” Rosen said.
Earlier this month the Treasury Department, citing the impact of the tax cuts, announced that the federal deficit in Trump’s first full fiscal year as president reached $779 billion, the highest amount in six years. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Bloomberg that the only way to address the deficit is to cut spending on Medicare and Social Security.
During her speech, Rosen expressed support for protecting DACA recipients, ending Citizens United, a $15 minimum wage, and addressing global warming.
Rosen had high praises for Sanders saying she was “so honored and so happy to be able to welcome and introduce” Sanders, adding that he was a champion for campaign finance reform and the environment.
“He fights every day for hard working Americans and for everything we know is good and true and kind,” Rosen said.
The audience jeered when Rosen mentioned Heller, yelling out, “Senator Spineless,” “coward,” and “liar.”
Polls show Rosen running a tight race against Heller. Early voting in Nevada, which began on Saturday, kicked off with record turnout during the first weekend of 2018 general election voting across the state. As is the case throughout most of the nation, early voting turnout is substantially higher this year than it was in the last midterm election. In 2014, nationwide percentage turnout was the lowest for a midterm since 1942, and Democrats got crushed.
As of Thursday a total of 227, 338 in person early voting ballots have been cast— 96,426 by Democrats and 88,193 by Republicans.
Congressional candidate Steven Horsford and secretary of state candidate and Assemblyman Nelson Araujo also spoke at the rally in Las Vegas. Gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak, like Rosen, a moderate Democrat, did not attend the rally citing prior engagements. When asked what his prior engagements were the Sisolak campaign did not respond.