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Sanders gets rousing welcome at Portland rally

PORTLAND — Bernie Sanders, hoping to tighten his grip on the Pacific Northwest, got a rousing welcome from more than 10,000 people at a rally in progressive Portland on Friday — and an unexpected visit by a little bird.

The Vermont senator clinched delegate wins in Idaho and Utah this week over Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton — who prevailed in Arizona — and he took that momentum to Portland.

Although Oregon's primary isn't until May 17 and Gov. Kate Brown gave her endorsement to Clinton this week, Portland is self-proclaimed Bernie Sanders country.

Sanders came to Oregon while he has also been campaigning in Washington state, ahead of the neighboring state's Saturday caucuses.

In Portland, Sanders received a warm reception, even after mispronouncing the state's name — saying "Or-eh-GONE" instead of "Or-eh-gun." Oregonians are particular about getting the pronunciation right. After an awkward silence, Sanders corrected himself.

When a small bird unexpectedly joined Sanders at the podium, the crowd cheered when the candidate said: "I know it doesn't look like it, but that little bird is really a dove asking for world peace."

Sanders also pleased his fans with jabs at Clinton — scolding her Wall Street-funded campaign and her vote in favor of the Iraq war in 2002 — and with remarks about the "unmitigated disaster" it would be if GOP front-runner Donald Trump became president.

"Obama's father was from Kenya. My father was from Poland. I find it interesting that nobody has asked me for my birth certificate," said Sanders, talking about Trump's support of the so-called "birther movement" when Obama was first elected.

Sanders is a favorite among Portland's liberal anti-establishment electorate, which showed at the rally at the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Tehben Dean, 28, said he gave up on caring about politics after volunteering for Obama's 2008 campaign. But Sanders reignited his interest.

"At the end of the day, he's made a huge, huge difference in this country because people are actually paying attention. They're actually realizing 'Oh, I do have a voice if I choose to go out and vote,' " Dean said.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders smiles as a bird lands on his podium as he speaks at the Moda Center in Portland on Friday. AP Photo