With a new poll showing him in a competitive race in California, Bernie Sanders kicked off his campaign in the Golden State with a jam-packed rally at the Wiltern Theatre on Wednesday night.
Though the Vermont senator faces a steep uphill climb in the delegate math, he vowed to fight all the way to June 7, when California closes out the primary season.
"If we win the California primary with a decent vote, we're going together to the White House," he said, to raucous applause.
As Sanders spoke, the Public Policy Institute of California released a new survey showing a close race on the Democratic side. The poll, conducted March 6-15, found Hillary Clinton leading Sanders by 48 to 41 percent.
The poll also found a stark generational divide, with 63 percent of voters ages 18 to 44 siding with Sanders, versus just 22 percent for Clinton. For those 45 and up, it was the reverse, with Clinton taking 63 percent to Sanders' 27 percent.
The crowd at the Wiltern skewed young for a political rally. Keylee Sudduth, 26, of East Hollywood, said she's volunteered at phone banks, making this the first campaign she's been involved in. She said she was drawn by Sanders' authenticity, and his emphasis on women's equality and student debt. She was not persuaded by the idea that it's time for the Democratic Party to come together behind the frontrunner.
"Major states haven't been able to vote yet," she said. "The Democratic Party should rally behind the candidate the people are rallying behind."
Jeremy White, 33, of North Hollywood, said the establishment was trying to force Sanders out of the race. "They don't want Bernie because they know he stands for dismantling the current system."
The Sanders campaign announced the rally on Tuesday night, and very quickly ran out of reserved tickets. About 2,300 people were able to get in, and many more were left out on Wilshire Boulevard. Sanders said the campaign would host more events in Los Angeles over the next couple of months.
Fueled by small-dollar contributions, Sanders clearly intends to go all the way to June 7, when California concludes the primary along with five other states and the District of Columbia.
In his hourlong speech, Sanders cited polling that showed him performing better than Clinton against each of the Republican candidates in a general election matchup.
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"We beat Trump, and we beat him badly," Sanders said, to wild applause.
So far, it appears that Latino voters have heavily favored Clinton in other primaries, and the PPIC poll found her leading among California Latinos by 58 to 35 percent. In his speech, Sanders made a pitch to Latino voters, vowing to "end the deportations" and use executive power to enact immigration reform. The crowd responded with chants of "Si, se puede!"
"We can argue whether Vermont is more progressive than California, but I feel very comfortable in California," Sanders said.
Clinton is scheduled to attend three fundraisers in Los Angeles on Thursday.