If you didn't already know the attitude of the overflow throng that came to the Sheraton downtown to hear Bernie Sanders, it was absolutely clear less than five minutes into the Vermont senator's speech.
"Bullshit," came a shout from the crowd as Sanders described Texas' all-Republican state government.
This was a crowd that was boisterous, frustrated and hungry for the red meat that Sanders was serving up, whether the presidential candidate was railing against income inequality, the influence of extreme wealth on the American political process or the way the criminal justice system has failed the United States' minority communities.
Sanders is a long-shot in his bid to take the Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton, but neither the odds nor the Texas heat kept away Sanders' supporters. The Sheraton's Dallas Ballroom, where the speech went off, holds 2,000, but there were at least that many crammed into the space, many of them sweating and fanning themselves with Sanders campaign signs. At one point, Sanders campaign volunteers could be seen talking with firefighters — presumably about the event's fire code compliance. The crowd in the overflow space immediately outside the ballroom was thinner but still shoulder to shoulder.
If there's any lasting value to Sanders' visit beyond fundraising, it will come in Texas' March 1 Democratic primary, although Clinton won the 2008 Texas Democratic primary, had a 38 point lead over Sanders in the Texas Tribune's last 2016 Democratic primary poll and is more in line politically with Texas' moderate Democratic electorate.
Still, there was an undeniable spark in the crowd Sunday. They knew the beats, hooting, booing and cheering on queue. Frequently, they chanted Sanders' first name, highlighting one advantage Sanders has over Clinton, a two-syllable first name.
"He's going to get a reputation for being more fun [than other candidates]," Paul Strom said after the rally.
Strom attended at his daughter's urging, and compared the outsider feeling around Sanders candidacy to the energy inspired by Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign. Despite his excitement, Strom expressed doubts that Sanders could beat Clinton, drawing a rebuke from a woman passing by on her way out.
"If everyone who thought like that would just vote for [Sanders], he'd win," she said.
Sanders had a second rally in Houston Sunday night. Originally scheduled for a venue about the size of the Sheraton ballroom, it was moved to an event center with a capacity of a little less than 10,000. Campaign volunteers in Dallas didn't know why the event here wasn't moved.
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