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Bernie Sanders woos crowd of thousands in Wisconsin

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders shakes hands with supporters after speaking at a political rally in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

AP

Long-shot Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders flexed his liberal muscle Wednesday night, drawing in an excited mass of thousands at a Wisconsin rally.

"In case you haven't noticed, there are a lot of people here," Sanders jokingly told the crowd packing the Veterans Memorial Coliseum's 10,000 seats. "Tonight, we have more people at any meeting for a candidate of president of the United States than any other candidate."

Speaking in the state's liberal capital of Madison, the Vermont senator gave his usual message centered around the economy and the American middle class.

"We believe that the time has come when people in Wisconsin, Vermont and all over this country create a political movement which says to the billionaire class, 'you can't have it all,'" Sanders said.

But he also specifically targeted the state's chief executive, Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to announce his 2016 intentions on July 13.

"What we are saying to the Koch brothers, Governor Walker and all of those people is that this great country and our government belong to all of the people and not just a handful of very wealthy people," Sanders added.

Ahead of his trip to the state's capital, Wisconsin Republicans criticized Sanders, with Gov. Walker joining in on Twitter with his own dig at the Vermont senator.

"Bernie Sanders is right about one thing: We don't need another Clinton in the White House," Walker also said in a statement Wednesday. "On virtually every other issue, however, he stands in stark opposition to most Americans. Wisconsinites have rejected his top-down, government-knows-best approach three times in the last four years."

The state Republican party also gave a welcome to the Vermont senator with a widely publicized billboard that positioned Sanders as "lefter" than Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. It read: "Yesterday's Candidates -- Extreme Policies."

wi-gop-billboard.jpg
Chris Martin / Wisconsin GOP

Sanders responded to the jab Wednesday, accusing Republicans of their own brand of "extremism."

"The billboard indicated that I was an extremist," Sanders said. "So let me just say a few words to my friends in the Republican party about extremism: When you deny the right of workers to come together in collective bargaining, that's extremism. When you tell a woman that she cannot control her own body, that's extremism. When you think a woman is a child and can't purchase a contraceptive, that is extremism. When you give tax breaks to billionaires, and refuse to raise the minimum wage, that's extremism."