Lauren McCauley has already made her pick.
The race for the White House doesn’t begin in earnest until next year, but she is backing Bernie Sanders, a long-shot candidate trying to spark a political revolution.
“I find it very refreshing to have a candidate who I feel speaks for the middle class,” said McCauley, 31, of Fort Worth. “He has a long history of supporting women’s rights and gay rights.
“He seems like the only no-bulls--- candidate in the race.”
McCauley was among more than 100 Sanders supporters who showed up at the Shipping & Receiving Bar on Wednesday night as part of the fiery 73-year-old’s nationwide day of campaigning.
The Vermont senator — an independent in Congress who is running as a Democrat for president — hopes to disrupt front-runner Hillary Clinton’s plans to finally claim the Democratic nomination.
“Enough is enough,” Sanders said. “No, it is not acceptable that the rich get richer and everybody else gets poorer.”
He live-streamed his message to thousands of gatherings in bars, restaurants, homes and coffee shops nationwide, including at the S&R Bar on Calhoun Street in Fort Worth.
“He’s the only candidate that’s not bought,” said Mike Jeffcoat, a campaign volunteer who helped organize the gathering here Wednesday night.
“We need to address problems that are happening in Fort Worth as well as happening on a nationwide level.
“And Bernie is asking us to do that.”
As the tally of Republican candidates continues to rise and the GOP dominates media coverage, only a few Democrats are running so far.
The common assumption has been that Clinton — a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state — will handily claim the Democratic nomination in 2016 after a tough race and loss to Barack Obama in 2008.
Her challengers, besides Sanders, are former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia.
Sanders, who has called for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, has given voice to issues such as education reform and the power of big banks. And he seems to be gaining name recognition.
His favorability rating among all voters has risen since March — to 24 percent from 12 percent. Clinton’s dropped to 43 percent from 48 percent, according to recent Gallup Poll results.
That still leaves Clinton with the highest favorability of any Democratic presidential candidate in the poll conducted from July 8 to July 21. Sanders remains unknown to many: Just 44 percent can rate him, compared with 89 percent who know and can rate Clinton.
Texas may have a big impact on the nominations. Few expect the races to be determined by March 1, Super Tuesday, when voters in a dozen states, including Texas, head to the polls.
Because Democrats eliminated the “Texas Two-Step,” a two-tiered system that awarded delegates through both a popular vote on election day and through postelection caucuses, the count will be much simpler here.
Texas will long be remembered for the 2008 Democratic primary, when Clinton won the popular vote but Barack Obama received more delegates through the caucus process.
Clinton will likely try to visit the area soon, said Sergio De Leon, a Tarrant County justice of the peace who has talked to her in person twice in recent months.
“She said, ‘We need to get back to Fort Worth,’” said De Leon, a Friend of Hillary and 2008 Clinton Tarrant County co-chairman. Clinton locally “received a great deal of support in 2008 and is expected to receive strong support in 2016,” he said.
Her campaign plans an action day in August to help spread the word about her candidacy. And members of the Hillary for Tarrant County effort are meeting soon to devise a plan.
Growing local support
Several people at the Sanders event Wednesday said they are trying to decide between Clinton and Sanders and want to hear what both have to say.
Others signed up to volunteer with the campaign or registered to vote.
Videos of Sanders — and his live speech — played on a projection screen while supporters talked to one another about the candidate and his message.
Sanders has released a 12-point campaign plan on issues including investing in infrastructure, making unions more accountable in ensuring equal pay for women and making Medicare available for all.
“He was brave enough to enter the Democratic competition against the very well-funded Hillary Clinton,” said Kitty Case, 71. “I like Hillary Clinton, but I respect his courage to take on the Clinton machine.
“I really like what he stands for.”
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610