BRONX, N.Y. (CN) - In a New York City borough where politicians rarely linger for more than photo opportunities, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders capped off an address to more than 18,000 supporters with a bold prediction about the upcoming primary here.
"If we win here in New York, we are going to make it to the White House," Sanders said at Saint Mary's Park in Mott Haven on Thursday night.
Rallies by major presidential candidates are a rarity in the Bronx - there was the night in 1984 Jesse Jackson spent at a housing project here - but Sanders emphasized he is not running a traditional fundraising operation.
"We want a government that represents all of us, not wealthy campaign contributors," said Sanders, whose campaign announced later that night that it pulled in a whopping $43 million haul in March.
The senator estimated the average donation size per donor at $27, a statistic so familiar to his supporters that the crowd chanted it back with him.
"We want a campaign-finance system that is not corrupt," the senator shouted. "We want an economy that is not rigged. We want a criminal justice system that is not broken. We are determined that instead of spending trillions of dollars on a war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into, we are going to reinvest in the South Bronx and in communities all over this country."
Sanders has regularly slammed the current Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for voting for that war during her first term as a New York senator.
Though Clinton's political career made some observers perceive a home-field advantage for her in New York, Sanders opened his remarks here Thursday night by reminding the crowd where he perfected his much-celebrated accent.
"As you know, I am the very proud United States senator from Vermont, but I am very proud that I was born here in New York City, that my wife was born in Brooklyn, N.Y.," Sanders said.
"My father came to this country at the age of 17 from Poland without a nickel in his pocket," he continued. "We lived in a three-and-a-half room, rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn. So, I learned a little bit about what it means to grow up in a family that has no money, and I also learned a bit about the immigrant experience. Those experiences I will never forget."
New York's primary on April 19 is a crucial contest for Sanders, who has narrowed the gap for pledged delegates - now 980 to Clinton's 1,243 - with landslide routs last week in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington.
Meanwhile, the most recent poll of the Empire State, released by Quinnipiac on Wednesday, shows Sanders whittled away what was once a 40-percent deficit to now only 12 points.
To pull off a come-from-behind victory, Sanders will have to dispel the notion that he performs poorly with Latino and especially black voters, who voted for Clinton overwhelmingly in the Deep South.
The senator's celebrity backers - filmmaker Spike Lee, actress Rosario Dawson and musician Rene Perez Joglar - said that the thousands of supporters showing up in the Bronx show the diversity of the Sanders coalition.