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A rock star of a presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders brought his show to Salt Lake City Friday afternoon and promised an encore on Monday for the hundreds of supporters who were turned away.
"It looks like I got some bad information; somebody told me Utah was a Republican state," said Sanders, the senator from Vermont, shortly after taking the stage set up in the parking lot inside This Is the Place Heritage Park. He spoke to a massive crowd that organizers estimated at 14,000 people.
Sanders is making a major push to win Utah, which will hold its presidential caucus Tuesday, the same day Democrats are also voting in Arizona and Idaho. Beyond his visit Friday, his first of the 2016 race, he's spent heavily on TV and radio ads and mailers. His campaign announced that he'll hold another rally at West High School on Monday, with the doors opening at 1 p.m. and the program beginning at 4 p.m.
The Utah crowd was more than four times larger than the one he addressed in Idaho Falls earlier Friday, and it seemed to give him a jolt of energy after a rough week in which he lost five primary contests to Hillary Clinton. The front-runner, Clinton, who has no plans to visit Utah at this point, now has a 317-delegate lead, not counting her support among party insiders known as "superdelegates."
Still, an upbeat Sanders told the crowd a path remains to victory a path beginning in Utah, as long as there is a big caucus turnout. "We will lose if there isn't."
And he addressed another presidential candidate holding a rally in Utah.
"I gather that my good friend, Donald Trump, is here in Salt Lake City," Sanders said, "I'm kidding, he's not that good of a friend. Let me say this: Donald Trump would not be elected president."
He said the American public would reject the Republican front-runner for his comments about Mexicans, women and his efforts to discredit President Barack Obama through the "birther" movement. Noting that Obama's father came from Kenya and his from Poland, Sanders said no one had asked to see his birth certificate and suggested it was because he's white.
"What this campaign comes down to is literally having confidence in ourselves and knowing that if we don't let the Trumps of the world divide us up, there's nothing that we cannot accomplish."
He clutched a wooden podium and freely deployed his trademark elaborate hand gestures as the wind whipped his white hair skyward. And with a crowd chanting "Bernie," Sanders delivered his progressive hits. He expressed his support for a $15 minimum wage, eliminating tuition for public colleges and universities, lowering student-loan interest rates, expanding Social Security benefits and providing a Medicare-like health system for all.
And of course, he promised to rein in Wall Street and reform the campaign-finance system, which he calls "rigged."
He slammed the Walton family, which owns Wal-Mart and is the richest clan in America, for profiting while many employees are on public-assistance programs.
"I say to the Walton family, the wealthiest family in America, get off of welfare, pay your workers a living wage," he said.
He promised to invest heavily in education and child care, airports and roads.
"Now my opponents and the establishment, they say, 'Well, Bernie, you are a nice guy, kinda like Santa Claus, giving away free stuff,' " he said.
Sanders said his plans are not fanciful he said he could pay for his college plan by taxing Wall Street.
Sanders argued that his campaign, unlike the others, is about "big ideas."
He vowed to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship and to ban fracking for natural gas, moving the nation toward more renewable energy, such as solar and wind.
He pledged more assistance to American Indian tribes, saying their past treatment is an "absolute disgrace."
"The Native American community has done too much for us," Sanders said. "More than any other group of people, they have taught us about the need to respect the environment, the need to live with nature and not against nature."
While calling most police officers "hard working and honest," Sanders added: "But you are tired and I am tired of seeing videos of unarmed people being shot, whether it is Abdi Mohamed" or someone else.
Abdullahi Omar Mohamed is the 17-year-old Somali refugee recovering in Salt Lake City after he was shot by police near the homeless shelter. Police say they saw him and another person beating a man with metal sticks, and that he didn't drop his weapon when ordered to do so.
Sanders said he'd push criminal-justice reform if elected, which would include dropping marijuana as a Category 1 drug, the same designation as heroin. He believes states should decide whether marijuana is legal or not, "but I do not believe possession of marijuana should be a federal crime."
Utahns waited in lengthy lines during a windy yet sunny day for a chance to see Sanders. Among them were Jake Penrod and his husband, Spencer Tucker. These 22-year-olds got off of work to get in line right at 9 a.m. and were among those closest to their favorite candidate.
Penrod said, while he likes Clinton, "I just find Bernie is more genuine."
For Alyssa Smith, a 26-year-old from Murray, Sanders seems more focused on people like her. She was particularly drawn to his call for universal health care access and free college. It was her first political rally, and she has never been this excited about a candidate.
Jasanna Cuch, a Ute living in Fort Duchesne, said she supports Sanders because she believes he'll help American Indians with land and water disputes, offering more support than the other candidates.
While most of the attendees were young people, who make up the core of Sanders' support, there was a smattering of senior citizens, such as Kay and Larry Sorenson of Lehi, who are in their 70s.
"I'm worried about my kids, my grandkids, my great-grandkids and this earth," said Kay Sorenson, who supports Sanders in part because of the consistency of his populist message over the years.
Mariah Noble contributed to this report.