Packed crowd greets Bernie Sanders in Greensboro

Bernie Sanders
FILE - In a Friday, Aug. 28, 2015 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, addresses the summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee, in Minneapolis. Sanders says international rivals would be mistaken to assume he wouldn't use military force if that's what circumstances required. He says the United States should have the strongest military in the world. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

GREENSBORO, NC (WNCT) —  An overflow crowd showed up to see Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders in Greensboro on Sunday — the same day a key poll showed him pulling ahead of Hilary Clinton in early primary states.

Sanders was hoping the big crowds he’s attracted across the country will continue in North Carolina — just as he has pulled ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire polling.

The Vermont senator’s campaign rally Sunday evening was at the Greensboro Coliseum’s special events center, which can seat 5,000 people. The venue was full and there was standing-room only.

After speaking to that group, Sanders went to a nearby room and spoke to hundreds of other would-be voters, reported WNCN’s Michael Hyland.

In all, officials with Sanders said that 9,129 people showed up to see Sanders on Sunday evening.

In the Iowa caucuses, Sanders has taken a 10-point lead over former Secretary of State Clinton, 43 percent to 33 percent, according to the CBS News poll which was released Sunday.

In New Hampshire, Sanders leads Clinton 52 percent to 30 percent, according to the poll.

The Greensboro stop is part of a three-state weekend swing through the South, where he faces a challenge overcoming strong support for party nominee front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton in the black community.

On Sunday, Sanders said the country is turning its back on a generation of black youth who can’t get jobs.

He cited data showing “real” unemployment among black high school graduates between 17 and 20 years old at 51 percent. His solutions include more funds for education and an infrastructure jobs program.

Some supporters came to the rally knowing exactly what message they would hear.

“He’s been saying the same message for 30 years. He’s as genuine as they come,” said Betsy Weitzman of Chapel Hill.

In a key southern state, South Carolina, Clinton has double Sanders’ numbers, according to the Sunday poll.

In SC, Clinton is ahead 46 percent to 23 percent, according to the CBS poll. South Carolina holds the first primaries in the South, with the Democratic primary on Feb. 27.

“They are sick and tired of establishment economics.  And they want real change in this country,” Sanders said to heavy applause on Sunday.

It’s that message young people like Cecilia Cherubini say is resonating with them.

Even though Sanders is one of the oldest candidates in the race, she says he’s connecting with people like her.

“I think that’s part of it. And I think it’s also because he’s very for women’s issues, which is an issue that has diminished some. But, feminism needs to come back more,” said Cherubini of Greensboro.

The North Carolina’s primary date is not yet set, but is expected in mid-March.

Sanders’ final stop in this swing South is Monday in Virginia.

— WNCN and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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