In his third visit to the progressive hub of Madison this week, Bernie Sanders failed to fill the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Kohl Center — but succeeded in firing up the supporters who heard his get-out-the-vote rallying cry.
Sanders drew 4,400 people to the arena for a Sunday evening rally, two days before Wisconsin's presidential primary. That number came from UW-Madison police, who had expected a capacity crowd of 17,000.
He spent much of his speech going after Republican Gov. Scott Walker — a popular play among Democratic voters in Wisconsin — and made his first public comments about the state's Supreme Court race.
The Vermont senator said Walker is trying to maintain control of the court by electing Justice Rebecca Bradley, whom he appointed to fill a vacancy in October.
"I hope a large turnout on Tuesday will help elect (Appeals Court Judge) JoAnne Kloppenburg to the Supreme Court," Sanders said.
Those comments came one day after Sanders' opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, slammed Bradley for her previous comments about contraception, abortion and the LGBT community in a speech to Democrats in Milwaukee.
Sanders leads Clinton among Wisconsin Democrats, with 49 percent to her 45 percent, according to a Marquette University Law School poll released last week.
He held a rally in Wausau earlier Sunday afternoon, and has events scheduled in Janesville, Green Bay and Milwaukee on Monday.
Sanders packed the 1,600-seat Orpheum Theater in downtown Madison on Wednesday, and brought more than 8,000 supporters to the Alliant Energy Center's Exposition Hall last weekend.
His July rally at the Alliant Energy Center's Veterans Memorial Coliseum packed in a record-setting 10,000 people, a crowd he hasn't since topped in Wisconsin's capital city.
Doors opened on Sunday several hours before Sanders took the stage, with performances and speeches from bands and surrogates.
"You’re going to reshape the Democratic Party with your work," former Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton told Sanders supporters.
Lawton is one of few Wisconsin elected officials who have endorsed Sanders over Clinton. She is joined by state Reps. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, and Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay, and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.
Sanders echoed the themes he has sounded throughout his campaign, advocating equal pay, reproductive rights, LGBT rights, single-payer health care and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Lawton argued that while detractors say those ideas are "pie in the sky," that's better than "pigs at the trough."
Calling for an expansion of voting rights, Sanders said Walker and other Republican governors have been "working overtime to suppress the vote." Sanders presented himself — to overwhelming applause — as "the opposite of Scott Walker."
At the same time, Walker was campaigning for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Eau Claire.
Sanders urged voters to go to the polls in record numbers on Tuesday.
"If there is a large voter turnout we will win. If there is a low voter turnout we will likely lose," he said.
Samantha Pierce, of Madison, said Sunday's event was the first political rally she's attended. She said she likes Sanders' consistency on issues, particularly his advocacy for cuts in defense spending.
"Putting all this money toward war doesn’t work, and we have things we need to work on at home, like addressing poverty," Pierce said.
Megan Dix, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student, said she values Sanders' stances on protecting the environment and going after large corporations. If he isn't the Democratic nominee, she said, she's not sure whether she would vote for Clinton.
Ashley Wagner, also a UW student, was also uncertain. She said she wouldn't sit out the election, but feels the other candidates are "puppets."
"I will vote against the Republican," said UW student Jordan Krieger. "Maybe a third party."
But Robi Szabo, also a UW student, was certain: he'll vote for the Democratic candidate whether it's Sanders or Clinton.
Actress Rosario Dawson told the crowd a vote for Sanders is an opportunity to restore Wisconsin's progressive values and its strong education system.
"We need to break off this relationship," Dawson said, referring to the political establishment. "It's been abusive."
Dawson was joined by actress Shailene Woodley and the bands Best Coast, Leisure Cruise and Space Raft to fire up the crowd before Sanders spoke. He was introduced by Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.
The evening ended with them joining Sanders onstage after his speech for a rendition of "This Land Is Your Land."