GREENVILLE – U.S. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders knows South Carolina is a Hillary Clinton stronghold but that didn’t stop him from rallying thousands on Sunday just hours after a narrow loss in Nevada.
“What the American people are demanding is a government which represents all of us, not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors,” Sanders said. “This campaign is gaining momentum because we are listening to the American people and we are listening in a way other campaigns don’t.”
Sanders won 15 delegates in Nevada caucuses, but blamed low voter turnout for his 5.5-point loss to Clinton. With the South Carolina primary on Saturday, his populist pitch needs to reach more than just the 4,800 predominantly white progressives who filled Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Sunday.
He acknowledged, while avoiding Clinton’s name that he could defeat billionaire GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who won the GOP primary on Saturday.
“If you look at national polls, and you want a candidate who’s going to defeat Donald Trump, you’re looking at him!” Sanders said, adding later, “Democracy is not about billionaires buying elections.”
Sanders’ has steadily increased his South Carolina staff to 200 over 10 field offices along with several surrogates who spread his message of a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public college education, and expanding Medicaid — something Gov. Nikki Haley refused.
Earlier in the day he visited Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, after which his wife Jane told The Post and Courier that the black community is listening, but time is short.
“The more that people get to know Bernie…they are much more likely vote for him,” Jane Sanders said. “It’s time that we need. So we’re working every waking hour.”
Polls have Sanders lagging 24 points behind Clinton, on average.
Facing those prospects, Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday he has a shot at winning states like Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma and his home state Vermont on March 1, but agreed a big southern state win is needed to prove his electability.
“We are focusing very hard on trying to get as many delegates as we can,” Sanders told host Chuck Todd. “We were taking on a candidate who ran in 2008, she knew Nevada a lot better than we did.”
He’ll once again run up against the Clinton machine Saturday in a state where she has a majority of the crucial black electorate.
But Clinton isn’t taking her base for granted.
Radio ads ally Clinton with President Barack Obama and now mirror Sanders’ talking points on removing prejudice from the criminal justice system so that “justice is just,” increasing the minimum wage and improving equality for African Americans.
“We’re looking into the copyright issues here, those are our words,” Sanders said jokingly.
Maya T. Prabhu contributed to this report.