Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responds to criticism that Sanders' policies are too radical
"He wants a political revolution at the ballot box," she said of Sanders.
Ocasio-Cortez, who served as a volunteer for Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, announced her endorsement of the senator's 2020 presidential campaign last fall. She first appeared alongside Sanders at his first rally following his heart attack in October, -- when the pair attracted an estimated 26,000 people to a rally in Queens, New York -- the largest event held by any member of the Democratic field this cycle.
Despite criticism, Ocasio-Cortez said Sanders' campaign intrigued her even before she ran for office herself, especially as progressive became more "en vogue."
When asked by the hosts on why she chose to endorse Sanders, the freshman lawmaker didn't hesitate.
"What makes Sen. Sanders so distinct in this field, is that he has been fighting for working families. His platform fights for working families," she said. "But he hasn't just come to this fight. He has been fighting for these issues his entire life."
"He did this when it was least convenient, he paid the highest political costs, he was fighting for those things before I was even born." she said, adding he did this by "expanding the electorate."
"He wants a political revolution at the ballot box," said Ocasio-Cortez, or more affectionately known as AOC.
When pressed on why Sanders is running on the Democratic ticket when he's labeled as an independent, AOC implied that most of the electorate -- 30-40% according to the congresswoman -- would also consider themselves independent.
"The largest plurality of voters consider themselves as not wanting to be a part of this labeling ... they don't feel like there's a home for them at the Republican party or Democrat party," she said. "That doesn't mean they're in the middle ... they don't want to consent to be governed."
Questioned by co-host Joy Behar on why some people love her and why some others are triggered, she said it's because the political system isn't designed for "people like us."
"It is not welcoming, historically, to have someone like that ascend." she said, adding that it's not a conducive environment for the working class, minorities or women. "Our entire political system revolves around rich men, rich men are not the center of my universe, working families are."
Co-host Meghan McCain said Sanders wants people to "buy into radical ideas," AOC responded that it's not about the policy.
"When you pull abstract ideas it's one thing, but a majority of American people would vote for Bernie Sanders," she said.
The congresswoman has made two trips to Iowa on behalf of Sanders' campaign, including one solo trip that began while Sanders remained sidelined in Washington, D.C. amid the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. She has additionally appeared in Los Angeles and Las Vegas with the senator, assisting with the campaign's Latino outrage in the latter city when she participated in a Spanish language event in late December.
From the stump, Sanders frequently describes Ocasio-Cortez as one of the most impactful freshman legislators in United States history, specifically citing her promotion of the "Green New Deal" that has become a centerpiece of his own campaign's environmental agenda.
In the most recent ABC/Washington Post poll, results show Sanders advancing to 32% support among Democrat and Democrat-leaning independents, up 8 percentage points from late January. Ahead of the Nevada debate, the senator is soaring, with a 15 point lead over former Vice President Joe Biden.
Still, the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary helped to clear some running room for one candidate who's not yet been on the ballot: former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Bloomberg -- who joined the race late in the game -- has become popular as a largely self-funded candidate. Many of his Democratic rivals, including Sanders, have questioned his strategy, even accusing him of "buying his way" into presidency.
Co-host Sunny Hostin asked Ocasio-Cortez if she agreed with that assessment -- and she said, "Yes, I do."
"I don't think when 60% of Americans make $40,000 a year, that the presence of a billionaire should exist," she added.
When asked by McCain if she would vote for Bloomberg if he was the last standing Democrat, AOC laughed.
"We won't get to that point, because Sen. Sanders will be the democratic nominee," she said confidently.
AOC is up for reelection in November -- where currently eight Republicans and four Democrats have announced plans to challenge the progressive icon for her New York seat.
Among those challengers are: New York City councilman Fernando Cabrera, a Democrat who joined the race for AOC's seat last October; Democrat Badrun Khan -- a first-generation immigrant and political activist; Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC correspondent and a critic of socialism, Republican Scherie Murray, a businesswoman from Queens and Republican Jineea Butler, a social worker who has often criticized AOC for her more progressive policies.
The hosts asked her why so many want to run against her, and she said while some were just looking for "attention," others wanted to ensure their ideas are part of the conversation.
"I would never close the door behind me," she said. "I welcome it because we should remind ourselves every two years of what we value."
AOC added, "I've done exactly what I told my community I said I would do."