Defying calls from the Biden camp to drop out, Bernie Sanders is pushing through to the big one-on-one debate with Joe Biden on Sunday. And with large campaign rallies out of the question, the Vermont senator opted to get out his message in a different way Wednesday night: by sitting down with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
“How are you feeling?” Fallon asked his guest when he sat down.
“I’m feeling good. Could feel better,” the candidate said, admitting that this Tuesday’s primary results did not go as well as he would have hoped, adding, “We lost some important states.” But in other ways, Sanders said, “We have succeeded.”
The senator explained how his progressive policies have more or less become accepted by the majority of Democratic voters. “People now understand, especially with the coronavirus, that it is insane that we live in a nation in which 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured and can’t get to a doctor when they should,” he said, “that we need a Medicare for All single-payer program. People got that.”
“Where we have not succeeded, frankly, is that most people today think that Joe is more electable than I am,” Sanders added. “So we see people say, ‘Oh, we love you, Bernie, we love your ideas, but I’m going with Joe because he is more electable.” He chalked that position up to Biden’s close ties to former President Barack Obama, but added that he believes “the media has played a role in that as well.”
“What I honestly believe is that in order to defeat Trump, we need the largest voter turnout in the history of this country,” Sanders said. “Trump is not going to be easy to beat. And I think you need a campaign of energy and excitement.” The obvious insinuation is that Biden would not ultimately evoke those emotions in voters.
And yet asked if he thinks Biden can beat Trump, Sanders replied, “I do,” joking, “between you and me, don’t tell anybody.”
Sanders also refused to take the bait when Fallon asked if he agrees with Trump that the Democratic primary was “rigged” against him.
“What amazes me, here we have a stock market that is collapsing, you have a coronavirus that is scaring the entire world, we have climate change, which is a threat to the human planet, and Donald Trump keeps worrying about the Democratic primary,” he said. “So, Mr. President, if you watch anything other than Fox—I don’t know that you do—why don’t you do your job? Pay attention to the needs of the American people. Don’t worry so much about the Democratic primary.”
Looking ahead to this Sunday’s debate, Sanders admitted that he “hated” the debates with eight or 10 candidates and was looking forward to taking on Biden one-on-one. “I think on this debate with two people in two hours, you know what,” he said, “we are actually going to be able to discuss the issues impacting the families of America.”