The presidential campaign: Bernie Sanders

  • Bernie Sanders holds a rally in San Diego, Calif., June 5, 2015. 
  • Octavio Hernandez of San Diego, Calif. poses in a Ché Guevara T-shirt at a Bernie Sanders rally on June 5, 2016. 
  • Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Modesto, California, June 2, 2016. 
  • Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Modesto, Calif. on June 2, 2016.
  • Jordan Sanchez of Modesto, California, says his big concern is the national debt, June 2, 2016. “It’s really big and we need to fix it,” he said. 
  • Actress and Bernie Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon sits for a portrait in Modesto, California, June 2, 2016. “The environment,” she said, “is the issue that will affect us all. And Bernie is the only candidate that opposes fracking.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Washington Square Park, New York, April 13, 2016.
  • Supporters await Senator Bernie Sanders at a rally in Washington Square Park, New York, April 13, 2016.
  • At Bernie Sanders’ Washington Sq. Park rally, Oscar Salazar says “we need to get the money out of politics. Special interests give money to every politician and then expects to sway them to their special interests.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Washington Square Park, New York, April 13, 2016.
  • Supporters await Senator Bernie Sanders at a rally in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, April 17, 2016.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, April 17, 2016.
  • Supporters await Senator Bernie Sanders at a rally in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, April 17, 2016.
  • Bernie Sanders listens to the national anthem at the CNN Debate between Hillary Clinton and himself at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, N.Y., April 14, 2016.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Derry, N.H. on Feb. 8, 2016 ahead of the primary that will be held in the state on Tuesday.
  • Bernie Sanders holds a rally for students at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H., Feb. 6, 2016.
  • Supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders in the spin room after the first Democratic Presidential debate at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino on Oct. 12, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders holds rally in Davenport, Iowa, Jan. 29, 2016.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders holds rally in Davenport, Iowa, Jan. 29, 2016.
  • Supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders before the start of the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center, January 17, 2016, in Charleston, S.C.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders hold a rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016.
  • Political signs supporting Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Charleston on January 17, 2016.
  • Fired up by the cheers, chants and thunderous applause of his frenzied supporters, Bernie Sanders vies for the hearts and minds of more than 4,000 Democrats Saturday at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s biggest convention on Sept. 19, 2015.
  • Bernie Sanders speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s biggest convention ever, on Sept. 19, 2015.
  • Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during the New Hampshire Democratic Party State Convention on Sept. 19, 2015 in Manchester, N.H.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders leaves the first Democratic Presidential debate at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino on Oct. 12, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Professor Cornel West applauds during a rally for Senator Bernie Sanders in Davenport, Iowa, Jan. 29, 2016.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders hold a rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders holds rally in Davenport, Iowa, Jan. 29, 2016.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016.
  • Senator Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016.

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Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has taken the 2016 race by surprise. The onetime long-shot candidate has pulled formidable grassroots support, surging against front-runner Hillary Clinton in recent public opinion polls.

As first-in-the-nation contests loom, Sanders appears neck-and-neck with Clinton in Iowa and even leads the race in New Hampshire. The Vermont senator and former mayor of Burlington seems to have further imperiled his rival’s once-inevitable path to the Democratic nomination.

The self-described democratic socialist is known for his unapologetic populous message, trumpeting change on income inequality, college affordability and criminal justice reform. A key item on his agenda is to reform Wall Street. Sanders argued that the federal government fails to prosecute corporations that have paid massive settlements — even though they often admit to criminal wrongdoing.

On the campaign tail, Sanders has been calling for a political revolution and promised to change the way politics work. In both his message and his strategy of working to gain a groundswell of support in Iowa, the candidate is echoing strategies successfully used by Obama in 2008. Like the president, he has vowed to challenge the powerful and wealthy, whom he says have too much political power on Capitol Hill.

Sanders was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after 16 years as Vermont’s sole congressman in the House of Representatives. The Brooklyn native, who would become the country’s first Jewish president, is serving his second term in the U.S. Senate.

These photographs were shot on assignment by photographer Mark Peterson for MSNBC Photography as part of his on-going body of work “Political Theater” which examines the landscape of the American political system.

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