Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke at a campaign rally at Charlotte’s Belk Theater on Friday ahead of the rapidly approaching North Carolina primary, listing reasons why he believes he is the best candidate to defeat President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.
The crowd that filled the floor of the theater and two balconies was predominently white and young, and they heard Sanders speak for about 40 minutes about the issues he has become known for -- his Medicare for All plan for health care, the Green New Deal and canceling student loan debt.
"What this campaign is about -- and it is not radcal -- is to create a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%," Sanders said.
He received some of the loudest cheers of the afternoon when he spoke about abortion rights.
"I’m on the floor of the Senate often and I hear a whole lot of speeches from conservative Republicans," he said. "And their mantra is they believe in small government, they believe in getting the government off the backs of the American people. And I say to those hypocrites, that if you believe in getting the government off the backs of the American people understand that it is women who have the right to control their own bodies -- not the government.”
Late in the rally, one audience member interrupted Sanders' speech to yell, "Beat Donald Trump!"
"Damn right we're gonna beat Donald Trump!" Sanders bellowed in reply. "Thanks for raising that issue, I was just going to get to it."
Natasha Campbell lives in Charlotte and volunteered at the Sanders rally but said she hasn’t decided between the Democratic candidates.
She’s gone to a local Tom Steyer event and liked Amy Klobuchar in the recent Democratic debate.
Campbell says for Bernie Sanders to get her vote she wants him to talk more about housing issues.
"He would definitely have to come up with something that basically levels the playing field," Campbell said. "As far as living wages and things of that option. And also expanding the housing programs that they have here."
Sanders’ appearance comes after a primary victory in New Hampshire, and ahead of primaries in South Carolina (Feb. 29) and North Carolina (March 3).
Early voting for North Carolina's "Super Tuesday" primary began Thursday and lasts until Feb. 29. Find more information on how and where to vote here.
According to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, Sanders is the front-runner among Democratic candidates, polling at 25%. Joe Biden (17%) and Michael Bloomberg (15%) are just behind the 78-year-old Vermont senator.
In North Carolina, a High Point University font-weight:normal">poll released Wednesday found that Sanders leads former Biden 25% to 19% among self-identified, registered Democratic voters in the state, and unaffiliated voters who said they would participate in the Democratic primary.
Sanders also took some shots at some of those fellow Democratic candidates.
"Now, I am running against some folks who are billionaires," he said. "I’m running against others who are not billionaires but get a lot of their funding from billionaires."
Hollywood showed up for Sanders, as first actress Susan Sarandon praised the candidate, saying, “We won’t be able to find another one like him for a long time,” followed by actor Danny Glover, who said, “We need us now more than ever before.”
"We are on a path to win the Democratic nomination," Sanders said. "And as you may have noticed, the establishment is getting a little bit nervous."