Bernie Sanders kicked off his Arizona campaign Tuesday night without mentioning a string of losses to Hillary Clinton in contests in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.
Instead, the Vermont Senator delivered an hour-long version of his stump speech to an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand inside the Phoenix convention center.
Official tally: 8,255 people attended the Bernie Sanders rally today in Phoenix. #abc15
— Melissa Blasius (@MelissaBlasius) March 16, 2016
He urged supporters to flood the polls March 22 when Arizona becomes the next major state to weigh in on the Democratic presidential nominating contest.
"What this campaign is about, again, is thinking outside the status quo," Sanders said in a voice made gravelly by nonstop campaigning. "You do not have to accept the status quo. We can do better. Don't let people tell you that you can't think big."
Tuesday puts Sanders in a difficult position, as Clinton runs up an all-but-insurmountable lead in delegates. She's won several states by lopsided margins and narrowly defeated Sanders in others, like Ohio, where his campaign thought it had a shot. His operation hopes it can score an upset in Arizona, which last voted Democratic in a presidential election in 1996 for Bill Clinton.
Sanders only mentioned Hillary Clinton twice during his Tuesday evening speech. He slammed her for giving speeches on Wall Street for six-figure sums and for having a Super-PAC funded by financial and pharmaceutical firms. He also cited her vote for the Iraq War, drawing boos from the crowd.
A projector showing early returns from the states voting Tuesday was quickly shut off as supporters waited for Sanders to speak. The Vermont senator stressed how hard it can seem to make progress in the United States, citing the struggles of the labor, civil rights and women's suffrage movements.
"Change, real change never takes place from the top on down," he told the crowd. "It comes from the grassroots on up."
Arizona's Republican primary also is March 22.