Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders fired up a capacity crowd of small-dollar donors at a midtown Manhattan theater Friday as he ridiculed the Republican candidate field and called for sweeping progressive change.
Free public universities, a nationwide $15 minimum wage and higher taxes for the rich were parts of the platform advanced by Brooklyn-raised Sanders, a Vermont U.S. senator. The fundraiser inside the 1,500-seat Town Hall on West 43rd Street was the first for Sanders' campaign in New York City, where front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton maintains her headquarters.
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A nationwide New York Times/CBS poll released this week shows that Clinton's lead over Sanders has shrunk from 41 percentage points to 20 points compared with earlier this summer.
Sanders' fundraising appeals spotlighting attacks by Clinton's backers have raised more than $1 million, the campaign said this week.
Hundreds whooped, cheered or took to their feet as Sanders prescribed policy pronouncements or demonized Republicans.
When a woman in the audience declared her love for Sanders, the candidate bellowed, "I love you too!"
Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said the fundraising haul from the event, of an estimated 1,100 or 1,200 people, was about $100,000. The average donation to Sanders is $31.30, according to the campaign -- the minimum contribution for admission Friday was $50 -- and Sanders stressed he was looking for funding from grassroots donors.
"I do not represent the interests of corporate America or the billionaire class," Sanders said. "I don't want their money."
Clinton's name went unmentioned, though Sanders boasted that he is one of the only candidates who doesn't have and doesn't want a super PAC.
Sanders, who spoke for about 45 minutes, spent much of his opening remarks charging that the Republican presidential contenders exist in a "parallel universe."
He slammed them for not discussing the "grotesque level of income and wealth inequality" as well as the "need to end institutional racism," man-made global warming and "real criminal justice reform."
Watching Wednesday night's GOP presidential debate on CNN, Sanders said, "the energy was leaving my body."