Thousands pack Washington Square Park for Sanders rally

Image 1 of 2

Bernie Sanders campaigned throughout New York City on Wednesday ahead of the state's influential presidential primary, a pivotal battleground for the Democratic nomination. He closed out his day with a rally in Washington Square Park that drew thousands of supporters. Scheduled speakers included Spike Lee, Rosario Dawson, Linda Sarsour, Tim Robbins, and Graham Nash.

"When I look at an unbelievable crowd like this I believe we're going to win here in New York," Sanders said in front of the Washington Square Arch.

The Vermont senator announced the endorsement of his first Senate colleague, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and picked up the support of a local transit workers union, providing him with a small army of workers who could pass out leaflets in subways in the days ahead.

"I believe we're going to win here in New York City," Sanders declared alongside the Transit Workers Union Local 100 before joining a picket line with communications union workers striking against Verizon.

New York City offers by far the largest bloc of votes in next Tuesday's primary and campaign officials estimate it could account for about 70 percent of the vote. In 2008, when Clinton dueled with then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in the state's primary, more than half of the vote came from the city's five boroughs.

Polls have shown Hillary Clinton with a lead against Sanders, putting pressure on the self-described democratic socialist to overcome the former secretary of state's edge. Clinton holds a lead of about 250 pledged delegates in the chase for the nomination, an advantage that Sanders is trying to chip away in upcoming primaries in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and beyond.

Clinton has captured the endorsements of most Senate Democrats but Merkley announced his support of Sanders, telling MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the senator had "been out there leading, clearly long before he decided to run."

In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Merkley also cited Sanders' positions on the dangers of global warming, and the "threats to our economy from high-risk strategies at our biggest banks." He said that Sanders has fought hard for military veterans, and he conceded he has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Democratic nomination.

With the Associated Press