Sanders draws a record crowd in Brooklyn. A sign of what's to come?

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had a record-breaking turnout at a rally in Brooklyn Sunday, making voters, pundits and competitors ask: What does this mean for Tuesday's crucial New York primary?

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont speaks at a rally at Prospect Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York April 17, 2016.

More than 28,000 people filled Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Sunday afternoon – and all of them were feeling the Bern. 

Ahead of Tuesday's New York primary, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont held a rally in Brooklyn's Prospect Park for 28,300 supporters, which campaign leaders say is the candidate's largest rally yet. Mr. Sanders and his supporters are excited about the record-breaking turnout because the self-proclaimed democratic socialist hopes to pull ahead of his competitor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Tuesday's delegate-rich New York primary.

"There were 28,300 people who came out to Brooklyn yesterday, not for a rock concert, but because they care about the future of this country, and they care about taking action to make things better, to be able to put some of these strong changes forward," Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) of Hawaii told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Monday.

Along with Representative Gabbard, other high profile appearances included actors Justin Long and Danny DeVito, who pumped up the crowd by saying "We feel the Bern!"

Sunday's crowd in Prospect Park is not Sanders' first big showing in New York. In late March, 18,000 Sanders supporters gathered in the South Bronx, and just last week another 27,000 gathered together in Manhattan's Washington Square Park. 

But are large rally crowds indicative of primary success? 

"If Clinton wins on Tuesday, it will be a reminder that crowds are nice but in a state as large as New York they aren't determinative. Remember that Hillary Clinton got more than one million votes to win the New York primary in February 2008; Obama got 750,000 votes to finish second," The Washington Post Chris Cillizza wrote on Monday. "If, on the other hand, Sanders wins – a replay of his come-from-behind victory in the Michigan primary – people will point to these crowds as the leading edge of that momentum."

Bernie supporters have often accused media of underestimating the size and importance of the senator's rallies, however, criticizing news companies of a "Bernie blackout," tying into his image as an underdog, anti-establishment candidate. 

The polls still have Secretary Clinton winning New York, but there is also sign that Sanders is closing the gap. According to RealClear Politics, which aggregates public opinion polls, Clinton was leading Sanders by 13 points as of Sunday. The Clinton-Sanders gap has shrunk to between six and 17 points in April, far less than the 40 point lead a Quinnipiac poll gave Clinton last May. 

"Those are the public polls. The bottom line is, let's look at the real poll tomorrow," Sanders told NBC's Today Monday. "Generally speaking, polling has underestimated how we do in elections."

Because regardless of the polls – or the record-breaking rallies – there is also the chance that Sanders and his supporters could pull a Michigan and come from behind to win the primary, unforeseen by pundits and polls. Before the Michigan primary on March 8, Sanders was behind by as many as 25 points.

"I thought it was an amazing moment in history," Bill Bernstein, a photographer in New York, told NBC News after attending the rally. "If he doesn't get the nomination this time, there are millions of millions of people who heard what he had to say. This is not going to die. This started something."

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