Bernie Sanders

Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News' "Meet the Press"

February 28, 2016

TODD: It was a tough night Saturday for my next guest, Bernie Sanders with Hillary Clinton enjoying a big victory in the South Carolina primary, that makes Super Tuesday even more crucial if he's going to keep his hopes alive for securing the Democratic nomination.

Senator Sanders, welcome back to "Meet the Press", sir.

SANDERS: My pleasure.

TODD: A month ago, senator, a month ago you said I think we're picking up more and more African-American support. Frankly IK think we can win there, referring to South Carolina.

You lost African-American voters 84 to 16, worse than any poll had shown.

Senator, what happened?

SANDERS: Well, we got decimated, that's what happened. Among older African-Americans it was pathetic from our perspective. But by the way, what was the glimmer of positive news for us is that we won the 29 years of age or younger vote. And we did well with African- American young people as well as white young people.

But no question Secretary Clinton won that state and she won it big, but I'm in Minnesota now. I think we got a real shot at Minnesota. I think we got a shot at Colorado, Oklahoma, Massachusetts and Vermont. So we're looking to the future, not looking back.

We had two rallies yesterday in Texas. 10,000 people out in Austin, 8,000 people out in Dallas. I think the future for us it's going to be a tough fight. I think we can pull it off, Chuck.

TODD: Look, the game is delegates now. It's not where you win states, it's about accumulating delegates. Your campaign is targeting states that are worth 288 delegates on Super Tuesday, Secretary Clinton is targeting six states that are worth 571. If you both do well in the states you're targeting, she's going to have at least a 200-delegate lead on you if you're not careful at that point.

As much as that -- this is -- why aren't you trying to win more delegates than her on Super Tuesday?

SANDERS: Well, we are trying to win every delegate that we can. And not only are we fighting for Super Tuesday, we're looking ahead to California, the largest state of all, New York State. We think we're going to do well in Michigan.

Look, Chuck. Let's be clear. We began this campaign nine and a half months ago at 3 percent in the polls, 3 percent, 70 points behind Hillary Clinton.

In the last two weeks some polls nationally have actually had us in the lead. We have come a long, long way fighting for the message that we're going to end income and wealth inequality and a broken criminal justice system and a corrupt campaign finance system.

We have developed enormous momentum all over this country. It is a tough fight, we knew that from the beginning. But I think we're going to do well on Super Tuesday. We're going to do well in many states after that. And we look forward to those state by state struggles.

TODD: You know, there was a long story in The New York Times today detailing Secretary Clinton's role in pushing the president on Libya at the time, helping to step in to overthrow Gadhafi.

Let me ask you this, would Libya be in better shape today if Gadhafi were still in power?

SANDERS: Let me say this, Secretary Clinton and I have very strong differences of opinion on foreign policy. I helped lead the opposition to this disastrous war in Iraq. She supported it.

To answer your question, no one can speculate. Nobody knows. But I think in terms of regime change, whether it is Gadhafi, whether it is Assad in Syria these are terrible dictators, but you've got to be thinking about what happens the day after the kind of political vacuum that occurs in Libya of course as a result of the overthrow of Gadhafi, ISIS now has a strong foothold.

I would have done it differently if I were president of the United States.

Secretary Clinton also believes -- no, I would have worked more patiently. I know that it was a difficult situation. But you can't just go forward with regime change. You've got to be thinking about the day after.

And I think the same thing is true in Syria. Secretary Clinton disagrees with President Obama and myself regarding a no-fly zone. I fear that can get us entangled more into that war. I certainly hope that the cease-fire that they have now holds negotiated by Secretary Kerry.

But I think her approach to foreign policy and mine are just quite different.

TODD: You know, earlier this week as the back and forth on the crime bill gone you had said you supported the House version of the crime bill because it had an assault weapons ban in it, but that turned out not to be the case.

So why did you put out a statement that was misleading...

SANDERS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. No. That's not my understanding.

TODD: It was not in the House bill that you voted. It was in a senate bill, but it was not in that House bill.

SANDERS: To the best of my knowledge -- hold it. To the best of my knowledge there were two important provisions. And that is violence against women act which was very important. I've worked very hard to prevent domestic violence. And on my understanding there is a ban on assault weapons in that bill.

Look, I spoke on the floor of the House about the harmful impacts of that bill. But weighing the pros and the cons I voted for it.

And by the way I also voted against the so-called Welfare Reform Act that Secretary Clinton then supported, which has had a horrible impact on the poorest of the poor people in this country.

TODD: All right.

Senator Sanders, I have to leave it there. I know you have another interview coming up. I appreciate it. Stay safe on the trail. We'll be watching on Tuesday.

SANDERS: Thank you.

TODD: You got it.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News' "Meet the Press" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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