Bernie Sanders

Interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC

May 11, 2016

MITCHELL: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joining me now. Senator, good to see you. First, congratulations on West Virginia.

SANDIERS: Thank you very much.

MITCHELL: But at the same time, you come out of there, at least now by our count, with a 17-17 delegate divide. So you win big but you still don't catch up. You don't close that gap. What's the path moving forward?

SANDERS: You know, Andrea, it -- it is interesting and you raise a good point. Hillary Clinton got I think 35 percent, 36 percent of the vote, popular vote yesterday, and yet she gets six out of seven of the superdelegates. And that's what we've been seeing all over this country. In many cases, we win landslide victories, 65 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent of the vote, and she gets the superdelegates. I think the people of many of those states are going to be saying to those superdelegates, hey, you know what? Why don't you reflect the views of the people in the state who voted for Bernie Sanders? And that's one of the areas that we're going to be focusing on in the coming weeks.

MITCHELL: Well, certainly that sounds like one of the areas you're going to be focusing on in terms of trying to get reform, commitments from her, from her team at the convention or before, that the process is going to change.

SANDERS: Well, no, what we're going to be focusing on in the next month is winning the Democratic nomination. Right now, Andrea, we have about 45.5 percent of the pledged delegates. That is the real delegates who are voted on by the people. There are eight primaries and caucuses remaining. We think many of the states in front of us are sympathetic to a progression mission -- message of standing up for the working class and the middle class against Wall Street and the billionaire class. We think we're going to do very, very well. And if we do extremely well -- and I know it's a steep climb but we have been fighting an uphill battle from day one -- but if we do very, very well, we still have the possibility of coming in with the majority of pledged delegates.

MITCHELL: Who is in charge and how are you working this attempt to get the superdelegates, to recruit them, to switch them over? Are you making calls yourself, for instance? Do you have an operation? Tell us what's going on.

SANDERS: Well, we are going to have a very strong operation and the point that we're going to make to the superdelegates is a very simple one. Over 400 superdelegates came on board Secretary Clinton's campaign before anybody else was in the race. Before anybody else was running. That's pretty crazy. And that talks about the weakness of this whole superdelegate system.

No. 2, the point that we're going to make loud and clear is that in virtually every national poll that's been out there in the last month or six weeks, and in almost state poll, Bernie Sanders runs stronger against Donald Trump than does Hillary Clinton. And I think what every delegate to the Democratic National Convention wants, most importantly, is to defeat Donald Trump. The case we'll make is that I am the stronger candidate.

And it's not only polling. Polling goes up and down. It is the fact that our campaign is the campaign bringing in working class people, bringing in young people, people who are sick and tired of establishment politics, establishment commitments, establishment media. People in this country are hurting. They want real change. We are the campaign of that change.

MITCHELL: Well, Senator Sanders, flying in the face of that is the exit poll data from West Virginia that shows that 34 percent, 34 percent of the Sanders voters said that they would vote for Donald Trump in a Trump/Sanders match-up.

SANDERS: Well, that is what some of those people are saying today.

MITCHELL: A third of them.

SANDERS: The general election, as you know, is in November. I think in a race with Donald Trump, Andrea, not only do I think we would win that race, I think we would win it overwhelmingly. Because I think the people of America, the more they see Mr. Trump, understand that he's a total phony, that what he said yesterday is not what he's going to say tomorrow. That he is a pathological liar and that he gets a lot of media attention for attacking people but that is going to wear thin.

The American people understand there's something wrong when they are working longer hours for lower wages and almost all new income and wealth goes to the 1 percent. They understand there's something wrong when we are the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all of our people or paid family and medical leave.

Bottom line is, the American people are not going to go to an establishment billionaire who changes his mind every day. They want I think a president who has a life history of fighting for working people and prepared to take on big money interests.

MITCHELL: But isn't the bottom line about you versus Hillary Clinton and who would be the stronger candidate, that she is now fighting a war on two fronts? She's getting beaten up by Donald Trump on a daily basis. Aside him from calling you Crazy Bernie in his tweet, he has been embracing you. He is building you up. He likes the fact that you're taking her down. So she's fighting Donald Trump. She's fighting Bernie Sanders.

SANDERS: One -- one second. One second. One second..

MITCHELL: And that's depressing her overall --

SANDERS: Andrea, no, I don't accept -- Andrea, I don't accept that proposition. Last I heard, Hillary Clinton is running for President of the United States. I am running for president of the United States. Trump is running for President of the United States. And what a candidate does is make his or her best case to the American people.

I have gotten attacked and attacked and attacked. My record has been misinterpreted and lied about. The issue of this campaign is to go out to the American people and talk about why the American people are working, are struggling. Hillary Clinton has got to make that case. Trump has got to make that case. Sanders has got to make that case. And that's what we intend to do.

MITCHELL: I'm just saying that --

SANDERS: And I know -- yes, I'm sorry.

MITCHELL: I'm just saying that -- sir, I'm just saying that Hillary Clinton's - the opposition to her, the negatives against her, have been built up by Donald Trump just hammering away at her. And up until now at least he has not been going after you as much. She's fighting two candidates and you're fighting one.

SANDERS: Andrea, Andrea -- oh really. Oh, really? Hah. Andrea, in every state that we have one, in 19 states, we have had to take on the entire Democratic establishment. We've had to take on senators and governors and mayors and members of Congress. That's what we have taken on, so please do not moan to me about Hillary Clinton's problems.

I'm in this race to win. We're taking on the Democratic establishment. We are standing up for working people and we have a shot. It is a steep hill to climb, but we're going to fight for every last vote that we can get, every delegate that we can get. And that's what I intend to do in the next month, five weeks.

MITCHELL: Well, I don't think I was moaning about Hillary Clinton's problems. But just to point out, let me play a little bit of Donald Trump on "Morning Joe" and ask you to react.

[begin video clip]

DONALD TRUMP: Well, Bernie Sanders has a message that's interesting. I'm going to be taking a lot of the things that Bernie said and using them. He said some things about her that are actually surprising, you know, that essentially she has no right to even be running and that she's bad judgment. When he said bad judgment, I said, "Sound bite!"

[end video clip]

MITCHELL: So if you do --

SANDERS: If Donald Trump --

MITCHELL: I'm just saying, if you do lose, then are you giving him the weapons against her?

SANDERS: Well, if Donald Trump wants to take my ideas and fight for a single payer national health care program or wants to fight to make sure that the wealthiest people in this country, like Donald Trump, start paying their fair share of taxes, wants to make sure that we have paid family and medical leave, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure -- if that's what Donald Trump is supporting, I think that's a good thing. And I hope Hillary Clinton does that as well.

But, frankly, because that is not what Donald Trump will be saying.

Point is, when you run for President of the United States you got to make your case to the American people. And in fact, as you well know, there are many areas that I could have attacked Hillary Clinton on that I have chosen not to attack her on. What I have done is run an issue-oriented campaign. That is what the American people want.

And, by the way, when you have a real debate about real issues, when you get more and more people involved in the political process, it results in a higher voter turnout. Democrats will win in November, whether it's Clinton or myself as the candidate, when there is a high voter turnout. Republicans win when there is a lower voter turnout. I think a vigorous debate, an honest debate about the real issues facing the American people, will result in a higher voter turnout, which is good for Democrats.

MITCHELL: Speaking of real issues, Donald Trump went after Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton repeatedly over the weekend, dredging up all sorts of personal attacks. I wanted to play a little bit of that for you and ask your reaction.

[begin video clip]

TRUMP: She's married to a man who hurt many women. And Hillary, if you look and you study, Hillary hurt many women, the women that he abused. Do you remember the famous "I did not have sex with that woman" and then a couple months later, "I'm guilty." And she's taking negative ads on me.

[end video clip]

MITCHELL: He's called her an enabler. Do you agree with that?

SANDERS: Look, the media loves that kind of stuff and that's why Trump is doing so well. That is the kind of ugly stuff that I do not go near. No, I debate Hillary Clinton on the important issues facing working people. The media loves every ridiculous remark that Donald Trump makes. But we are going to stay focused on the issues. And the issues are a growing gap between the very rich and everybody else, and that we have a government and a corrupt campaign finance system that enables the wealthy and the powerful to control legislation and economic decisions in this country. I want a government that represents all of us, not just the 1 percent.

Those are the issues that I talk about, not Bill Clinton's personal life, not Hillary Clinton's emails, not the Clinton Foundation. That is what Trump will talk about; that's what the media will talk about. I will focus on the issues facing working families in this country and I hope the media will allow that discussion to take place.

MITCHELL: And as you say, it's a hard climb to narrow this gap. But -- and if you don't, will you feel that the revolution has succeeded if she has moved to your positions on a lot of these issues and if you open up the democratic process and have fewer primaries like the closed primary in New York that you've complained so much about?

SANDERS: Well, Andrea, our focus right now is on winning Democratic nomination. But this is what I want to say, whether I win or whether I don't. The Democratic Party has got to note that we have won in virtually every contested contest out there. We have won a strong majority of people 45 years of age or younger. The ideas that I am bringing forth in this campaign are in fact the future of America and the future of the Democratic Party. And the Democratic Party is going to have to open their doors very, very wide to millions of working class people and young people tired of establishment politics, who want real change in this country. Don't want a party dependent on Wall Street; they want a party that is going to stand up and fight against Wall Street. That is what the Democratic Party has got to do. If I am elected president, that is certainly what the Democratic Party will do. But I hope it happens in any case.

MITCHELL: Senator Sanders, thank you very much. Thanks for joining us today.

SANDERS: Thank you, Andrea.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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