DES MOINES — A jubilant Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday night told an energized group of supporters that the state had begun a "political revolution" as the once long-shot candidate was in a dead heat with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as midnight approached.
Sanders, who inspired a coalition of young voters and liberals through his passionate advocacy for a radical economic agenda, declared, "The American people are saying 'no' to a rigged economy."
The Vermont socialist, who once trailed by 50 points, has run on offering free college, single-payer universal healthcare and mandatory paid leave, and has put Wall Street in the crosshairs.
"What Iowa has begun tonight is a political revolution," he declared at the Holiday Inn Airport Convention Center here. "A political revolution that says when millions of people come together, many who have never been involved in the political process … when they come together and say enough is enough, that our government belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires. When that happens we will transform this country."
A fired up Michael Henninger had made the trek from Lawrence, Kansas. Asked what brought him here, he responded: "I'm here for the revolution."
Henninger has been spent every weekend in the past month knocking on doors for Sanders.
Though he said he was a little bit disappointed that Sanders didn't outright win, he said, "This really shows the rest of the nation that this is a competitive race. That there is a viable alternative to establishment politics, and that is Bernie Sanders. America sees that, and soon I think the Democratic Party will see that."
Josh Sebert of West Des Moines said, "I'm pretty pumped." He said, "Iowa is not the most liberal state in the world, and so if Bernie can basically get into a statistical tie with her here I can see him doing a lot better once we get into a more liberal state."
He said he supported Sanders because, "I'm kind of tired of the country being run by a corporate oligarchy, basically a handful of millionaires controlling the election cycle."
Ron Packer from South Bend, Ind., wished Sanders would have won, but "From where he started nine months ago, it's a victory. Hillary Clinton quickly jumped in and opened her mouth, all her money, all her braggadocio, didn't stop Bernie. The fact that it came to a 'Mexican standoff', to use an old term, it's a victory for Bernie."
Ariel Cohen contributed to this report.