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Bernie Sanders returns to the campaign trail with a rally in New York City

Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LONG ISLAND CITY, New York -- Bernie Sanders leaped back onto the campaign trail Saturday with a rowdy political rally aimed at reassuring supporters unnerved by the 78-year-old's recent heart attack -- and with a lot of encouragement from an unexpected place.

The candidate competing with Sanders to lock down the Democratic Party's most progressive voters, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, is eager for the Vermont senator to continue his pursuit of the presidency. The prominence of their shared agenda in this race is amplified, officials from both campaigns say, by them being in it together for the distance.

Saturday's event, with a crowd estimated by the Sanders campaign at more than 25,000 people, suggested they will. Sanders exhibited a burst of resilience before the large crowd at a waterfront park here, unleashing on the rich, corporations and establishment Democrats in a speech that extended for an hour. He strode on stage in blue blazer and sweater on the crisp fall afternoon following a full-throated endorsement by some of the most sought-after progressives in Congress, and on the heels of a fundraising quarter that surpassed even the impressive numbers Warren posted.

"I am more than ready to take on the greed and corruption of the corporate elite and the apologists," Sanders said, after briefly thanking supporters for their well wishes amid his health scare. "I am more ready than ever to help create a government based on the principles of justice: economic justice, racial justice, social justice and environmental justice. To put it bluntly: I am back."

The crowd erupted into chants of "Bernie's back."

"There is no question that I and my family have faced adversity over these last couple of weeks," Sanders said. "But the untold story is that people everywhere in this country in the wealthiest nation in the history of this world are facing their own adversities."


Sanders was joined by local Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez the 30-year-old progressive crusader representing New York whose endorsement was feverishly pursued by both him and Warren. Sanders also notched the support of Ocasio-Cortez ally Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali immigrant and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. The support injected a carefully timed dose of vibrancy and multiculturalism into the septuagenarian's movement.

"The only reason I had any hope in launching a longshot campaign for Congress is because Bernie Sanders proved you can run a grassroots campaign and win in an America where we almost thought it was impossible," Ocasio-Cortez said.

Even with the surge of momentum, the senator still faces a tough path ahead. It is unclear how far the vitality he exhibited here in New York and in Ohio on Tuesday at the Democratic debate -- his other major public appearance since checking out of the hospital -- will go in reassuring uneasy primary voters. Candidates in past races have seen their presidential aspirations sunk by such medical incidents.

In a YouGov poll conducted a few days before the Ohio debate, only 19% of voters and 26% of Democrats said they believed Sanders is in good enough physical condition to serve effectively as president for four years. Twice as many voters said the 76-year-old Biden was in good enough health, and three times as many expressed confidence in 70-year-old Warren's health.


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