Speaking from his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, on Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the Super Tuesday results, the speculation about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plans for the future, Michael Bloomberg’s decision to drop out of the race, and a new campaign ad featuring President Obama praising Sanders. Sanders won four states, including California, and collected delegates in nearly every contest. On Wednesday afternoon, as results were still trickling in, Sanders had 501 delegates to Joe Biden’s 566 — and both were hundreds of delegates ahead of their nearest rival, Warren, with 61.
The Vermont senator cast the Democratic primary as a two-person race, and saying he was looking forward to having a substantive debate with the former vice president on a long a list of issues: Biden’s support for the Wall Street bailout, the Trans Pacific Partnership, the 2005 bankruptcy bill, cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ programs, and, most of all, health care.
“The American people have got to understand that this is a conflict about ideas. And I like Joe. Joe is a decent guy, and I do not want this campaign to devolve into a Trump-type effort where we’re attacking each other, where its personal attacks. That is the last thing this country wants,” Sanders said. “Joe has his ideas, his record, his vision for the future; I have mine, and I look forward to a serious debate on the serious issues facing this country.”
Sanders, asked if he’d spoken to Warren since Tuesday’s results, confirmed he had. “We did speak on the phone a few hours ago, and what Senator Warren told me is that she is assessing her campaign. She has not made any decisions as of this point.”
“It is important for all of us, certainly me, who has known Elizabeth Warren for many, many years, to respect the time and the space that she needs to make her decision,” Sanders said. “Elizabeth Warren is a very, very excellent senator, she has run a strong campaign, she will make her own decision in her own time.”
He added that he was “disgusted” by any online vitriol directed toward Warren.
Even after emphasizing it was now a two-person race, Sanders was surprised to learn from a reporter that Bloomberg had dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden. “He certainly brought a lot of money into this race; he certainly made a lot of television networks very, very wealthy, and I’m sure they’re disappointed that he’s leaving,” Sanders said. “I suspect we will see a lot of money going into Biden’s campaign, probably a lot of negative ads attacking me — that’s what we’re taking on.”
Sanders also sought to tamp down speculation that, now that he was no longer leading in the delegate count, he may have changed about whether the candidate who got the most votes in the primary should be the nominee, regardless of whether that person met the DNC-mandated delegate threshold.
“I just want all of you to think about what it would look like to this country if Candidate X … goes into the convention in Milwaukee with the most votes, and then the party leadership and the insiders and the corporate world say, ‘Oh yes, the people voted for you, you won I don’t know how many states, you got more votes than your opponent, but … we don’t think you’re the candidate and we’re going to select Candidate Z,’” Sanders said. “I think that would cause massive dismay within the American people. So, yes: My views have not changed.”
Sanders also addressed a new ad released by his campaign, featuring President Obama, the day after the former vice president took a decisive lead in the primary race. “We have worked with President Obama, I am not going to say that we are best friends, we talk every now and then.… I wanted to make it clear because, you know, there’s a lot of dishonest statements about my relationship with Obama, to say that I’d work with him and respect him and look forward to working with him.”
He added that there was enormous pressure on Obama to endorse Biden, and that he “very much appreciates his willingness” to remain neutral in the primary. And with that, Sanders ended the press conference.
“Senator — you say you’re the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump, but you lost nine states yesterday, how do you still make that case?” a reporter called after Sanders.
“Thank you!” Sanders replied, as he walked away from the podium.