Bernie Sanders argues Joe Biden and 'establishment' ignored working- and middle-class voters

The Vermont senator finished second in South Carolina's primary on Saturday.

March 1, 2020, 10:33 AM

NORFOLK, Va. -- After Joe Biden won a decisive victory in Saturday's South Carolina primary, his chief Democratic presidential campaign rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, wasted no time in drawing contrasts with the former vice president, accusing him of ignoring the voters who could lead the way in defeating President Donald Trump.

"In order to beat Trump, we are going to need the largest voter turnout in the history of this country," said Sanders, I-Vt., on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "And I don't think you can do that unless you have a message that appeals to the working class and the middle class in this country, who have been ignored too long by the political establishment, of which Joe Biden is part of."

Despite finishing a distant second to Biden in South Carolina, Sanders said he believes that his campaign has an "excellent chance" to win some of the larger states' contests in the coming weeks.

"We'll see what happens on (Super) Tuesday," he said. "But my guess is, that we have an excellent chance to win some of the largest states in this country and states all across this country. because of the coalition we're putting together because of the issues we're talking about."

Heading into the South Carolina primary, Sanders led the delegate count after winning the popular vote counts in Iowa and coming out on top in both the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses.

At a rally in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Saturday night, Sanders congratulated Biden on his South Carolina victory and told the crowd, "you cannot win them all." On Sunday, he argued on "This Week" that the results still contained a few silver linings.

"We won the young African-American vote," the senator said when questioned whether he was making the strides with black voters he previously said he needed. "We are winning in terms of polling, some national polling we're actually ahead of Biden in terms of the African-American vote."

Throughout the past two weeks -- even with the contests in Nevada and South Carolina looming -- Sanders mixed in a large number of events in the states voting on Tuesday, traveling to California, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. On Sunday, he returns to California for two events, before stopping in Utah and Minnesota on Monday. He'll hold a Super Tuesday watch party in his home state of Vermont.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during campaign rally on Boston Common, Feb. 29, 2020, in Boston.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during campaign rally on Boston Common, Feb. 29, 2020, in Boston.
Mary Schwalm/AP

The campaign hopes that wins on Super Tuesday, particularly in delegate-rich California and Texas, will provide Sanders with an insurmountable lead, especially given his robust investment in advertisements and organization in the states relative to that of Biden. Asked if, at that point, he will need the support of the "Democratic establishment," the senator expressed confidence that the party will unite around the eventual nominee.

"I've known (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi for a very long time, I'm part of the Democratic leadership of the United States Senate with (Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer, it is my view that every Democratic candidate for president, no matter who wins this nominating process -- clearly I hope it's me -- we're going to come together because we all understand that Donald Trump is the greatest threat to this country in the modern history of this country," Sanders said.

While campaigning, the senator has targeted Biden over the former vice president's 1993 vote in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the 2000 vote to approve Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and his 2003 vote in favor of the Iraq War. Sanders has argued that these positions could cost Biden votes in a general election with blue-collar workers and young voters, and he re-upped those criticisms Sunday while arguing against the notion that it would be more difficult to unite Democrats around his candidacy.

On the issue of whether a candidate with a plurality of pledged delegates should receive the party's nomination if none surpass the threshold necessary, Sanders is split with the rest of the Democratic presidential field. Sanders has characterized a potential brokered convention for a less-popular candidate as the undermining of the people's will.

"I want you to think about it for a moment. If we go into Milwaukee, into the Democratic Convention with a lead. Having won many, many states, having won the people's vote -- and that is reversed at the convention. How do you think people all over this country are going to feel?" he asked.

"Do you think, really, that will give us the unity? You talked about unity, we need unity. If you reject the candidate that has the most votes from the people and you win it through superdelegates and the Democratic establishment and the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, do you think you're going to have the energy and the excitement of the grassroots movement to defeat Donald Trump? I honestly don't think you will," he added.

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