Sep 2, 2015 by

Senator Bernie Sanders at a rally in early August at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore. He has been drawing crowds that are the envy of other candidates. Credit Troy Wayrynen/Associated Press


BOONE, Iowa — The first person Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont met when he climbed out of a Dodge Journey here on a recent Saturday morning was Caleb Humphrey. It was for good reason.

“Senator, this week alone Caleb made 2,016 calls,” a campaign organizer said, introducing Mr. Humphrey.

“Oh, my God,” Mr. Sanders said, looking genuinely shocked. “Thank you very much for that.”

As Mr. Sanders walked into the hall for another packed rally, Mr. Humphrey, a 30-year-old Army veteran, explained why he had made so many calls urging Iowans to come to the event.

“I haven’t felt anything like this in the three years I have been out of the Army,” he said of Mr. Sanders’s unlikely and rising campaign for the Democratic nomination. “I feel a part of something.”
aid, “He’s feeling the weight of ‘Wow, people really need this.’”
Bernie Sanders Draws Big Crowds to His ‘Political Revolution’AUG. 20, 2015

Support for Mr. Sanders has surged around the country, and he has drawn crowds that are the envy of other candidates. But it is Mr. Sanders’s footprint in Iowa, that most critical of early states, where that expansion matters most. A new Des Moines Register poll shows that Mr. Sanders now trails Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, by only seven points in Iowa, where he will return for another campaign sweep on Thursday.
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Who Is Running for President?

The Sanders campaign made its first hire here on May 18, an advance director with a history in student organizing. A field organizer came on next, followed by an administrative staff member, all in the campaign’s one office in Des Moines. Then, as Mr. Sanders became a national phenomenon over the summer, his Iowa operation bloomed.

It now has 53 people on staff, with a “robust hiring plan” made possible by Mr. Sanders’s fund-raising success with small donors, according to his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver. This past weekend alone, he said, the campaign’s 1,700 volunteers marched out of 15 campaign offices throughout the state to knock on 17,000 doors and make 10,000 phone calls.

They call it Bern-Storming.

Mr. Sanders also has a growing presence in other primary states, and is putting staff in Nevada. But for a Vermont independent senator with radical political roots, no experience in national politics and little establishment backing, the key has been attracting more than 140,000 volunteers who have registered online.

Mr. Sanders and his campaign say their main logistical challenge now is building an infrastructure that matches the momentum seen in polls and rallies.

“We had assumed there would be a more gradual ramp-up,” Mr. Weaver said.

In Iowa, the campaign is hiring professionals to coordinate volunteers and their canvassing activities, but also to better build what Mr. Weaver called a “geographically diverse” base of support in the state. Already attracting young voters, the campaign is confident that older voters will also gravitate toward Mr. Sanders as they learn more about the 73-year-old’s positions on access to cheaper prescription drugs and on Social Security.

While Mrs. Clinton has an impressive Iowa organization, Mr. Weaver said that had not meant all the talent was locked up. With so many veterans of past Democratic campaigns available, there is a “whole cadre of people who are not in the Clinton world,” he said.

And the campaign has inherited some key operatives who worked for President Obama. Scott Goodstein, the founder of Revolution Messaging, which is handling the digital operation for the Sanders campaign, ran social media efforts for Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign. Zack Exley, who joined the campaign in August, also did work for Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign. And the president’s former site architect and videographer are also on board.

That is not to say the campaign’s field operatives sell themselves short. Mention the lack of a figure like David Plouffe, the organizing force behind Mr. Obama’s campaigns, and Pete D’Alessandro, the campaign’s Iowa director, says, “That’s me!”
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Mr. D’Alessandro, the campaign’s second hire in the state and a former organizer for former Gov. Chet Culver, said the major crowds out West had energized volunteers in Iowa, who watched feeds of the events at campaign pizza parties.

He added that larger events in nearby states also expanded the volunteer base, and that the campaign had asked supporters in Madison, Wis., where Mr. Sanders drew a crowd of 10,000, to come knock on doors in Dubuque.

“More foot soldiers,” he said.

When Mr. Sanders showed up for the opening of his campaign headquarters in Marion, Iowa, the response was so large that organizers added another speech, said Matt Burge, a volunteer who collected cards on which supporters committed to caucus for Mr. Sanders.

“Seeing his momentum grow and grow makes it a lot easier” to get commitments, he said.

The crowds have become such a point of pride for the Sanders campaign that when Mr. Weaver spoke to a reporter in the vestibule of an intimate meeting with union members in Clinton, he half apologized for its size. “I’m told that this is how they used to do events before the Bernie Sanders phenomenon,” he said.

Supporters at Sanders events around the country say they learn about them from Facebook, the candidate’s own website or Reddit, where Mr. Sanders announced his bid on the Sanders for President message board, which now has 95,000 followers.

“We’re in communication” with the campaign, said Aidan King, 23, a co-founder of the Reddit page who works in a Vermont-based winery. He said campaign had given the page a heads-up about the Madison event because it was its first test for drawing a big crowd.

The Reddit page administrators responded by disseminating information on how to R.S.V.P. for the event with the Sanders campaign and then provided a forum to organize transportation.

That is an enthusiasm that Mr. Sanders — the self-styled substance candidate — is using as his principal talking point on the trail. And no matter where he goes, the crowds only help him generate more interest in Iowa. And in Iowa, he and his campaign make sure they get what they need from the crowds.

“The bad news is,” Mr. Sanders told supporters in Marion, “I got your name.”

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