- Vermont senator in tight race with Hillary Clinton in state
- Democrat criticizes Goldman Sachs as example of rigged system
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders thinks he’ll win next week’s Iowa caucuses as long as people who’ve been attending his rallies actually show up to vote, though he stopped short of saying he expects a victory.
“We will win if the turnout is large,” the Vermont senator said at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast Thursday in Des Moines. “If the turnout is not large, we’re going to be struggling.”
Sanders and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton are running neck-and-neck in Iowa, which holds the first balloting of the 2016 presidential race on Feb. 1. Rhetoric between the two candidates has become increasingly sharp in the final days before voting begins. That tension was on display during Sanders’ appearance as he fiercely rejected any suggestion that he would bus in out-of-state college students to caucus for him, a claim some Clinton supporters raised against Barack Obama in 2008.
“I don’t want my integrity and honestly being impugned. This is a lie, an absolute lie. We will win or we’ll lose, we’ll do it honestly,” Sanders said.
The breakfast, just four days before the votes are cast in Iowa, showed a side of Sanders that was less the happy warrior he can be on the trail, where he’s seemed slightly surprised at how far he’s come after trailing Clinton by 50 points in the polls. Instead, he returned time and again to more combative tones, seeking to harness voter anger toward everything from the political establishment to Wall Street.
Sanders, 74, denied that he was characterizing all Wall Street employees as “terrible and dishonest.” He said he uses Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as an example of the problems with Wall Street, saying it’s not limited to the bank.
“Here is the issue that the American people are deeply cynical about,” he said. “Goldman Sachs certainly is not the only financial institution to have paid huge settlement fines with the federal government.”
Sanders also lashed out at David Brock, founder of several groups that support Clinton including the super-PAC Correct the Record.
“Why you bring people like David Brock into your campaign and Super PAC, I don’t know,” he said. “Every one of you knows, you know it, that every day you’re being flooded by all of this negative stuff from the Secretary Clinton’s super PAC.”
Sanders said a clear contrast with Clinton is that he will be able to foster change because he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests contributing to his campaign. He compared Clinton raising “a substantial” sum last night in Philadelphia from investment banks to his own efforts collecting $1.3 million from individuals giving less than $30 each.
“My idea of how you transform America is not to be dependent on Wall Street, hedge funds, pharmaceutical companies for campaign contributions,” he said.
His victory in the first-in-the-nation state will likely depend on young, college age voters showing up. Sanders played down expectations for turnout, emphasizing the difficulty of bringing out large numbers of supporters.
“It is easier to bring people out to town meetings and rallies, than to necessarily get them to caucus,” he conceded.
Sanders said that establishment Democrats who aren’t backing him now will come around if he wins the party nomination because the alternative would be a Republican candidate who would be “a disaster” for the country.
“I think what happens is, if we win the Democratic nomination, I think you’ll probably have a whole lot of the Democratic establishment saying, ‘Well you know, truth is, Bernie Sanders was not my first choice,’” he said. “‘But compared to Donald Trump, compared to these other Republican candidates, Sanders is a 100 times closer to where we are, and we’re going to vigorously support him.’”
Sanders repeated his criticism that the billionaire is a “pathological liar.” He cited Trump’s assertion that there were thousands of Muslims celebrating in the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as examples of Trump’s dishonesty.
“Where Trump gets away with it is he says outrageous things, and then if you say this guy is saying outrageous, dishonest things, you’re criticizing him and not being fair to Donald Trump,” he said. “That is why he is winning.”