CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it was amazing to me that they`re marching into that, but that is essentially whoever the nominee, can focus the lens on that. I think it will be massively advantageous for the Democratic nominee.
Maya Wiley, Sean McElwee, thank you very much for joining me.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Greetings from beautiful crisp, wintery Burlington, Vermont. I came up here tonight for an exclusive live interview with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders here in his hometown. This is going to be Senator Sanders` first TV interview since yesterday`s Super Tuesday primary contest.
As of tonight to catch you up, NBC News has Joe Biden as the projected winner in Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. NBC projecting Vice President Biden as the apparent winner in Maine.
Senator Sanders is projected to be the winner by NBC News in three states yesterday, his home state of Vermont, also Colorado, also Utah, and per NBC News, Senator Sanders appears on track in the biggest prize of the entire primary season, California. NBC News has not made a formal call in California. With just 54 percent of precincts reporting, NBC says it`s too early to call, but Bernie Sanders is in the lead in California. "The Associated Press", I should mention, has projected a win for Senator Sanders there.
So, it`s kind of a good news, bad news situation for Senator Sanders at this crucial and super interesting point in the campaign. On the one hand, on the senator`s own campaign metrics, they fell short of what they said they wanted to do yesterday, and the turnout numbers in aggregate and in key Sanders supporting demographics continue to fall short of what the Sanders campaign is aiming for and what they say they need to set themselves up to win in the general election with Senator Bernie Sanders as the nominee.
That said, next week`s contests are some of the states in which Senator Sanders is very much likely to do his best, and it can`t hurt that the field has narrowed dramatically and suddenly.
Mike Bloomberg dropped out of the race today. He endorsed Joe Biden.
Senator Elizabeth Warren made no public appearances today and has report reported reportedly considering her options for the future of her campaign. "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that there has been contact between Senator Warren`s campaign and Senator Sanders` campaign in part about their shared progressive agenda and views. We shall see.
The Sanders` campaign announced today just since midnight yesterday, so less than 48 hours, they have raised $5.5 million from more than 220,000 donors.
So if you are Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders today and you are looking at this universe of information staring down the next few months until the Democratic convention, how are you feeling about where you are and what is to come?
I have the man to ask. Joining us here live in my friend Steve`s house is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Senator, it`s great to see you.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: How are you feeling?
SANDERS: I`m feeling good. I really am.
I think we`ve got a real path toward victory.
SANDERS: I think if you and I chatted a year ago when we began the campaign and we said in an unprecedented way taking on all of corporate America, Wall Street, the insurance companies, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, taking on the entire political establishment, that today a year later, we would be within a few -- I don`t know when they finish counting up California, we may actually have a few more delegates than Biden does.
I`m not quite sure that many people would have thought that we would be where we are today. So I`m pretty proud of the unprecedented kind of coalition that we`re putting together and the movement that we`re developing.
MADDOW: Now, your campaign manager spoke with MSNBC yesterday before the last -- before the first poll closed.
SANDERS: What does Faiz say now?
MADDOW: Now, he was -- I mean, he was cautiously optimistic I would say.
MADDOW: What he said was we are -- we walk in with a delegate lead. We want to walk out with a bigger delegate lead.
It doesn`t look like that`s going to be what happens. You did come in with a lead. Senator Biden -- I mean, Vice President Biden just had -- had a huge night.
It -- regardless of the sort of absolute value terms of how you did, if you came in shorter than what your campaign was expecting, have you done a sort of assessment today? Have you done sort of an internal look at what went wrong and why you didn`t finish where you want in this (ph)?
SANDERS: Well, let me just say that I`m -- I`m not sure that at the end of the count in California where we have won and will win a whole lot of delegates. I think at the end of the day, we may be a little bit ahead of Biden.
MADDOW: You might have expanded your lead?
SANDERS: Yes, a little bit. A little bit. Because there are several hundred delegates not yet accounted for in California.
Look, from day one we knew this would be a tough race. When you take on the political establishment, that means Amy Klobuchar got out. Pete Buttigieg got out. Bloomberg got out, and now we`re dealing with one candidate.
And you know what? I feel good about that. Because the differences in Joe Biden`s record and Joe is a friend of mine but his record and my record, his vision and my vision are very, very different, and I think we`re going to have the opportunity when there may be just two of us there to differentiate the differences.
MADDOW: Then there is -- there is more than one candidate still in the race.
MADDOW: Elizabeth Warren`s still in the race.
MADDOW: And there is that intriguing reporting from "The Washington Post" that your campaign and her campaign have been in touch over the course of the day.
SANDERS: I spoke with Elizabeth today.
MADDOW: And you spoke with her.
Can you tell us about that conversation?
SANDERS: I don`t want to go into (INAUDIBLE), it`s a private conversation, but I think, you know, Senator Warren has worked really hard over the last year. She has run in many ways an excellent campaign, bringing out a whole lot of ideas which I think have expanded political consciousness in this country. She`s now assessing, you know, where she wants to go, and she deserves the time and the space to make that decision.
MADDOW: I feel like there is a -- there`s a pretty big distance between the way that you have talked about Senator Warren and the sort of collegiality that the two of you have expressed mutually, mutual respect, mutual sort of -- in it together kind of sense I`ve sensed. There`s a distance between that and the way that you are supporters particularly online have treated Senator Warren.
And your supporters have called her a snake. They used the snake emoji to represent her. They`ve called her a traitor. They`ve actually -- there`s been some organizing online among Sanders` supporters to primary her so she will lose her Senate seat in Massachusetts.
And I know you have distanced yourself from some of what your supporters have done in your name, but in this case, I wonder if that sort of vitriol toward her has hurt the prospects of you two working together from here on out?
SANDERS: I talked to her. It was a very cordial discussion. I am absolutely aghast and disgusted with any kind of vitriol online. And, by the way, Rachel, if you think that doesn`t come into our campaign --
MADDOW: I`m not talking about an incoming. I`m talking about outgoing.
SANDERS: No, no, and I condemned that. You now, it`s ugly stuff. What we want our supporters to be doing is talking about the issues. Have a vigorous debate on the issues. We don`t need ugly personal attacks against Senator Warren or anybody else for that matter.
But in terms of Senator Warren, what I will tell you is that on major issue after major issue, we may have nuances of differences, but she is an advocate of Medicare-for-All, which obviously I strongly support. She wants to raise that minimum wage to a living wage of 15 bucks an hour. She wants to cancel student debt. We have a nuance of difference in that.
But essentially, she has run her campaign the way we have. Taking on powerful corporate interests and represent working families in this country, something that is long overdue.
MADDOW: Would you consider asking Senator Warren tor be your running mate?
SANDERS: It`s too early to talk about that. But, certainly, I have a lot of respect for Senator Warren and would love to sit down and talk to her about what kind of role she can play in our administration.
MADDOW: Today, we did the math on Michael Bloomberg`s candidacy and discovered --
SANDERS: He spent a whole lot of money. Is that what you --
MADDOW: Literally, the majority of money spent in the Democratic campaign, not only by all the candidates who are still in but by all the candidates who have ever been in this campaign, the majority of it was spent by him.
MADDOW: And he won American Samoa last night, and that`s it, and he`s now out.
Now, I know you said you don`t want his help if you are the nominee, but I wanted to ask you about what that -- what that really means. Would you -- does that mean that you would tell him to not run ads against President Trump?
SANDERS: Look, he has -- let me just say this about Mayor Bloomberg. He has every right in the world, had every right in the world to run for president, but I think what I and many, many other people found very disturbing is his very open and blatant desire to buy the election. That`s all. There`s nothing less than that.
And that smacks to me of oligarchy, not democracy, and I think maybe the people of this country saw through that.
But in terms of a corrupt political system, which we have right now, if you wanted to go out and start a super PAC, you can do anything you want. That`s called a corrupt political system. I want to overturn Citizens United. I want to move to public funding of elections.
But, you know, Bloomberg can do what he wants to do, but what I`m saying right now is we have raised -- I can`t remember, $5 million, $6 million just in the last few days. We are raising money in an unprecedented way. We have more campaign contributions from more Americans than any candidate in the history of the United States. A little bit different than the way Bloomberg approached it. Very different from the way Biden is approaching it.
There`s an article -- I don`t know if you saw it today, "The Wall Street Journal," Wall Street starts opening up its wallet for Joe Biden. He has more than 60 billionaires contributing to his campaign.
So I`m proud of the way we are raising money.
In terms of Bloomberg, you know, he is supporting now Joe Biden and we`ll see what role he has -- let me say one other thing which really bothers me. There hasn`t been a lot of attention to it. There`s a group called the Big Tent, I don`t know if you`re familiar with that.
It is a super PAC funded by corporate interests, I suspect the drug companies, insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry. They`re pouring millions of dollars into ugly negative ads against me, against our campaign.
And that is the kind of political corruption that has got to end. We need to end super PACs. We need to move to one person, one vote. We need to restore democracy in this country.
MADDOW: If you`re the nominee that will be a shade of what you`re up against in the general.
SANDERS: That`s right, that`s right.
MADDOW: So, let me just press you a little bit on the Bloomberg factor. I understand the principle that you are articulating, but when it comes to the actual spending of money in the election, obviously, he`s not going to give you the money. He`s not going to coordinate with you if you`re the nominee.
What he`s talking about doing is running ads against Donald Trump, running Democratic voter registration efforts, running get out the vote efforts on Election Day. Are you going to say he should not do that if I`m the nominee, I will not?
SANDERS: Look, I`m going to say, look, it`s his money. He has a right to do that.
All that I`m saying, Rachel, is the American people understand that the current political system is literally corrupt, that billionaires whether it`s Michael Bloomberg or right wing Republicans who are spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to support right wing candidates, that is a corrupt political system, and we`ve got to change it.
MADDOW: Let me talk to you about sort of how you see yourself fitting into Democratic Party politics at this point.
Interesting news today about Steve Bullock. He was in and out in a hot minute in the presidential race, and Democrats are ecstatic today about the reports that he is going to jump into that Senate race in Montana because he`s perceived to be the best shot at winning back that seat for the Democrats which would go a long way towards getting Mitch McConnell out of control of the U.S. Senate.
Now, when he was running for president, part of the reason he arctic articulated for why he was running for president is he`s worried that the primary was too left, he`s worried that policies like Medicare-for-All, your the signature health care policy was going to be alienating to too many potential Democratic voters.
So, in a universe in which you`re the leading or one of the two leading candidates for the nomination, you may be the nominee, Steve Bullock is a very important Democratic Senate nominee potentially in Montana, can you help him get elected?
MADDOW: Or do you have to keep your distance? I mean, how do you --
SANDERS: No, I mean, he will make his own decisions. But, of course, I think we can help him.
I mean, I`ve heard this argument a whole lot of times. I believe that in the general election, the way you beat Trump is to have the largest voter turnout in the history of this country.
Do not underestimate Donald Trump. He`ll have endless amounts of money because he doesn`t believe in the rule of law. He will combine federal agencies with his own campaign. He has a loyal group of supporters. So it`s not going to be so easy to beat him.
But I believe that it will be very hard to beat him when you`re running a - - old fashioned type of campaign, when you`re running, you know, the same old same old.
You need energy. You need excitement. We need to bring working class people into the campaign, some of whom may have voted for Trump. We need to bring young people into the campaign, maybe who never voted for.
And you talk about Medicare-for-All. Medicare-for-All is wildly popular with working class and lower income people who understand that we have a dysfunctional health care system. We are spending twice as much.
By the way, I would love to debate Joe Biden on this issue, give us an hour on MSNBC, all right, where we can talk about how anybody can defend the system in which we`re spending twice as much per capita on health care as people in any other country, yet 87 million are uninsured, 30,000 died, half a million people go bankrupt every year because of medically-related debt, and we spend far and away the highest prices for prescription drugs.
You want to defend that system? Let`s do it.
I think that that is an issue that wins, that speaks to the needs of working families. People detest the greed and the corruption of the pharmaceutical industry. As president of the United States, I will take them on.
MADDOW: You know I`m going to ask you the following question about turnout because you -- you -- as long as I have been talking to you about American politics, you have made this case, and I have -- I believe it that turnout is the difference.
MADDOW: And that when it comes to progressive politics in particular, increased turnout gets you an increased shot of not only changing the Democratic Party but changing the country.
And the turnout is not there for you. The turnout -- the turnout does not look good thus far in the Democratic primary. We can talk about that in detail, but I know you`re aware of it.
SANDERS: But let me just say this in terms of young people. I mean, one of the issues that should be talked about -- to his credit and I wish we could do better, Joe Biden is doing well with people 65 and older. We`re not.
We`re doing phenomenally well with 30 or under.
Now, which group of people is there more potential to grow the base, to bring people?
SANDERS: Clearly, young people historically have not voted in the kinds of numbers that one would like them to vote. It`s going up, but it is nowhere near as high as it is with older people.
MADDOW: But it`s not though (ph) -- it`s not going up. And that`s -- with your campaign right now firing on all cylinders and all the benefit you have from all the amazing organizing you did in 2016, no states last night saw an increase in young voters as a percentage of the electorate compared with 2016. In North Carolina, in Tennessee, in Virginia, even here in Vermont, young voters made up a smaller proportion of the electorate than in 2016.
Why are fewer young people turning out in 2020 with you on the ballot?
SANDERS: I mean, what I will tell you is that in Iowa, we tripled -- we increased by 33 percent the number of young people who are participating. I`m not familiar with these statistics. I really haven`t seen them.
But it is -- now, look, this is the challenge that we have. We have the lowest voter turnout than any major country on Earth. Less than 60 percent.
Poor people in America by very big numbers do not vote. How do we bring them into the political process? Why do they not vote? Why are young people not voting?
This is tough stuff. And you`re right, we are trying to do that. I understand that it`s easier to bring older people who have been voting for their whole lives, but we are working really hard to try to bring people out, and I think in the general election, we will be successful.
MADDOW: I want to go back to that in terms of the general election how it might be different. But on this question of working class voters, in Virginia -- Virginia was the one state yesterday where we actually did see a bit of a surge in voters without a four-year college degree. In Virginia, it was up in terms of raw numbers and in proportion from 2016. But Joe Biden carried those voters two to one, and we didn`t see a surge in working class voters in other states.
And because it`s the -- because it`s so central to your idea of what your brand of politics is and why people should get involved in the electoral process, what I don`t understand is why more -- why you`re not this year --
SANDERS: I haven`t seen these numbers. What I have seen is that in the previous states, in fact, we did very well with working class people. This is the first that I`m hearing about that.
But at the end of the day, I have not the slightest doubt in the world that our campaign is the campaign that speaks to working class people who have long been ignored where the establishment has turned their backs on them. If you look at the numbers, Medicare for all is extremely popular with working class people who cannot afford to pay in some cases $12,000, $15,000 a year for their health care that they currently have.
So I have zero doubt that our agenda, which calls for raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, demanding that the wealthy and the powerful start paying their fair share of taxes, dealing with climate change through a Green New Deal and creating up to 20 million jobs, that is the agenda that will win the election and defeat Trump.
MADDOW: And the argument is that the agenda will drive the turnout overall. You`ve talked about needing the biggest voter turnout that America has ever seen.
SANDERS: That`s right, that`s right.
MADDOW: And that you need it in those specific swaths of the electorate that are underrepresented that don`t feel like politics works for them.
If the agenda isn`t working despite turnout in those groups, and to bring them up overall -- and I will tell you the data says that it`s not right now in 2020. Data in the state, the early three states that you won, the turnout was -- it was either -- it was either flat or it was statistically insignificant in terms of its --
SANDERS: Well, no, Nevada had a 20 percent increase in voter turnout, New Hampshire had the largest voter turnout in history. Iowa was flat.
MADDOW: Iowa was flat. New Hampshire when you compare it with 2008, you look at populating growth, I mean, you`re not --
SANDERS: But 2008 was when Obama ran his brilliant campaign.
SANDERS: All right. Well, that`s fine. Obama ran an exceptional campaign.
But in Nevada, turnout was 20 percent higher, New Hampshire had the largest voter turnout in its history. Iowa was flat.
MADDOW: In terms of -- do you think that you should be able to match 2008 voter turnout numbers?
SANDERS: I would hope so and I hope we`ll do that in the general election.
I think the fact -- here`s the point about the general election. Number one, I believe -- I know that every Democratic candidate will support the winner, all right? Those who have left the race, I will support Biden. Biden will support me.
We will bring together 99 percent of all Democratic voters, all right? That`s not the question. They`re going to come in because Trump was the most dangerous president in modern history, doesn`t understand the Constitution, doesn`t care for the rule of law. He`s a racist and a sexist, et cetera.
We will get them. So, the challenge is, how do you expand the base? And if anybody thinks you can do it through the same old, same old type of politics, I would respectfully disagree.
You`re going to need energy. You`re going to need excitement, and I think that is the campaign we have.
And, by the way, I do not accept that Medicare -- Medicare-for-All polled very well yesterday among Democratic voters, demanding that the wealthy and powerful start paying their fair share of taxes is extremely popular. The concept of a wealth tax that Elizabeth Warren and I have talked about is a very popular concept.
So I believe that not only are the ideas that I am talking about ideas that are long overdue, ideas that exist in many cases in every other country on Earth.
You`re talking about Medicare for All. You know where we are right now, 50 miles from the Canadian border. Go up to Canada. Everybody there has health care as a human right. The quality is good. They`re spending less -- they`re spending 50 percent of what we`re spending.
Why is that? Why is that?
And it speaks to the power of the drug companies and the insurance companies who dominate what goes on in health care. They make $100 billion in profit, 87 million people are uninsured or underinsured.
I don`t think it`s a radical idea, Rachel. I don`t think making public colleges and universities is a radical idea. It exists in Germany. It exists in countries in Scandinavia, all over the world.
And then you get the climate change. Is it radical to say that we should try to save the planet and tell the fossil fuel industry they can`t destroy the planet? I don`t think that`s a radical idea.
So, I reject -- you know, one of the problems that we have, people say, Bernie is an extremist. There`s nothing we are fighting for that is extreme. It`s what exists all over this country. It is what the American people want.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, I have a lot more to ask you about, including some new news about coronavirus. A very surprising new proposal from the Trump administration related to coronavirus that has a little touch of the Medicare-for-All.
SANDERS: Yes, I heard about that.
MADDOW: Let`s talk about that when we come back.
We`re with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont here in Burlington. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, thanks again for doing this.
SANDERS: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I want to talk to you a little bit about the coronavirus crisis. Today, we started to get the first pictures, first announcements about in Italy, which has been so hard health -- so hard hit, they`re going to hold large sporting events now in empty stadiums. Just a very stark shot.
We had the Tokyo marathon run this past week with empty streets and only elite runners allowed.
Japan has shuttled their schools. France has banned all large public gatherings, and emergency is declared in Washington state, Los Angeles County. United Airlines today cut 10 percent of domestic flights because the impact on aviation is important here just in the United States as well.
When we think about the scale of this and what kind of disruptions may be ahead for the American public, I think it`s -- it`s sort of almost feels bigger than politics, but we`re having a presidential election at the same time. Have you ever dealt with anything in your career that`s at all analogous to this kind of crisis management?
SANDERS: A major national infectious or international infectious disease - - no, of course, I have not.
MADDOW: Something that calls on the same kind of skills from a leader?
SANDERS: Well, I am -- I don`t think very many people have, but I have some real thoughts about what we have got to do, and I know you were leading into before the break that the Trump administration has figured out that maybe it`s not a great idea to have people who might have the virus walking around the streets, going to work and they can`t afford to go to health care and get a checkup from a doctor.
SANDERS: So I think even the Trump administration has figured out that it`s a good idea to make sure those people who feel sick or may have some of the symptoms actually go into a doctor`s office.
MADDOW: They`re proposing using federal disaster funding to pay for medical treatment for people who are uninsured.
SANDERS: Imagine that.
MADDOW: Which looks a little bit like Medicare-for-All. It`s a little like socialized medicine but just for the coronavirus.
SANDERS: Just -- yes, it`s not of their concern that maybe 40,000 or 50,000 people die each year because they don`t get to a doctor on time and the people get much sicker than they should because they don`t get to a doctor on time.
But I`m glad at least they recognize that it`s totally insane and dangerous to our society that if you`re walking around with this disease and infecting other people, and you`re not going to a doctor when you should because you don`t have any insurance, that is counterproductive for the whole society. So, I`m glad that they recognize that.
But the bottom line is this is a global crisis. You should not be having somebody like a Vice President Pence leading the task or somebody who I think was -- you know, to say -- to be gentle to him, be kind, is not a great advocate for science in general.
You need scientists to be running it. We need to increase new funding for dealing with the crisis, not stealing money from other health care sources. We need to make sure that hospitals all over this country have the capacity, ICU units, in order to deal with the new patients that might be coming in. They need to have the test kits, which they don`t have right now.
So bottom line -- and we need to be working, obviously, with World Health Organization and the international community because this is clearly a global crisis.
MADDOW: And the hardest hit city in South Korea today, I saw that there`s a waiting list of about 2,300 people to get into a hospital bed.
MADDOW: In King County, Washington, the public -- the local authorities have just bought a motel and are buying modular housing to house people in isolation, specifically so they can preserve hospital capacity because they`re anticipating the need for so many hospital beds and ICU beds.
If we`re going to have a crunch in terms of literally hospital bed capacity, and you know, ICU beds and ventilators, do you trust that the Trump administration can manage that? Do you think that there`s anything that needs to change in terms of the way Congress is overseeing this response to make sure that lives are saved that would other side be lost?
SANDERS: I have very little confidence in the Trump administration to do anything that is right or decent or certainly based on science. Remember, these are the guys that think climate change is a hoax. And Trump was, what, last month telling us that the crisis would be over by April. That it somehow magically ends in April. So, no --
MADDOW: Cases would go to zero.
SANDERS: Right. I mean, this is our brilliant, you know, president of the United States who`s obviously studied this issue intensely.
So, Congress is going to have to play a much more aggressive role. The difficulty is he has contempt for Congress, and Congress has literally passed legislation which he will not necessarily implement.
So, we`ve got a global crisis. Congress is going to have to play its role, and we have to do everything that we can to protect the American people.
MADDOW: It is a frightening situation for a lot of people. It poses a special challenge for somebody who`s running for president. You`re literally crisscrossing the country, major events, big crowds every day.
Have you thought at all about the prospect that your campaign may need to change the way you engage with voters, the big rallies you`ve done?
SANDERS: We`ve talked about it. We were out, we did some really large rallies in L.A., in San Jose last week, and we called up the public health people there, and they said, go ahead and do it.
So, we will be in contact with the public health people. Obviously, we`ll not do anything to endanger the health of anyone.
MADDOW: There`s even talk -- reports today that the Democrats Convention Committee is begun to entertain contingency plans.
You know, they`ve got mass gatherings already canceled, outlawed essentially in places like Japan and Italy and France. If that is happening in this country, by necessity, by public health necessity come July, what`s the alternative that Democrats should pursue if they can`t have a traditional convention?
SANDERS: Well, let`s not speculate there right now. I don`t know the answer to that. That`s something we`ll have to look at depending, hopefully, God willing, we don`t reach that stage.
MADDOW: I have other convention things to ask you, too.
SANDERS: All right, go right ahead.
MADDOW: Senator Sanders is my guest here in Burlington Vermont. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back now in Vermont with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for president in the Democratic primary.
So, thank you again for doing this.
SANDERS: My pleasure.
MADDOW: I know this is an incredibly busy time.
You are off to what I know is going to be a big string of events and heavy duty campaigning over the next week. The states next week look good for you. I think Mississippi is going to be a reach, but the other states that are in competition next week, places like Missouri and Michigan, you fought basically to a tie, or Michigan, you won, it was very close --
SANDERS: We won by a little bit in Michigan.
MADDOW: Won by a little bit in Michigan, it was very close in Missouri.
MADDOW: You did great in Idaho and Washington, places like that.
How do you feel about what`s ahead and momentum, and how strong your opponent, vice President Biden is right now?
SANDERS: Well, look, Joe Biden is a very strong opponent. He will have all of the corporate world behind him, he`ll have the political world behind him.
But this is what we`re going to do, Rachel -- and I`ve got to tell you, you know, I hope very much this doesn`t come into some kind of ugly personal attacks because I like Joe Biden. He`s a very decent guy, but what is important for us is to contrast our record, our vision for the future with Joe`s. And that`s what we`re going to do.
Joe Biden voted for the war in Iraq. I led the opposition against that disastrous war. That`s a difference. Joe Biden voted for a bankruptcy bill on behalf of the credit card companies and that bill has done a lot of harm to working families all over this country. I voted against that.
We`re going to the Midwest, Michigan. Michigan was decimated by terrible, terrible trade deals, NAFTA, PNTR with China, which cost our country some 4 million good paying jobs. I walked the picket lines against NAFTA. I went to Mexico to see what NAFTA would do. Joe voted for those terrible agreements.
I have spent my life fighting against cuts for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Check it out. Joe was on the floor of the Senate talking about the need to cut Social Security, Medicare, veterans needs.
Joe voted for the Wall Street bailout. I was disgusted by that bailout.
So the differences are enormous, and our vision for the future are enormous, and I hope very much we`ll have a straight up debate over our records, what we`ve tried to accomplish, and where we want this country to go.
MADDOW: You mentioned that the Midwest and how important the Midwest has been. I also want to ask you about the South. I mean, in 2016, you ran basically equal with Hillary Clinton everywhere in the country except the South where she really ran the table against you.
That seems to be happening again. You didn`t reach even 20 percent of the African-American vote anywhere in the South. In North Carolina, you actually did worse. You did 19 percent with African voters in 2016. That dropped two points last night.
What -- what is going wrong with your campaign when it comes to competing in the South, and competing specifically for black voters?
SANDERS: Let me give you the other side of the story, is that in California, if my memory is correct, we received 39 percent of the votes of people of color, which were Latinos, Asian Americans and African-Americans. If I am not mistaken, I haven`t studied these results.
We probably won the young people -- young people, African-American vote probably in all of those states.
MADDOW: But in California, you`re being well out-paced by Joe Biden among black voters.
SANDERS: Well, we are winning among people of color in a very significant degree.
MADDOW: Let`s talk about black voters, though, specifically, but it has been a consistent problem. You knew it was a problem in 2016. It might have cost you the nomination then. But it hasn`t gotten better.
SANDERS: Yes, both. We`re running against somebody who has touted his relationship with Barack Obama for eight years. Barack Obama is very popular in this country in general and the African-American community. Running against Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton was enormously popular.
So, I don`t think if you look at some of the national polls, in fact, there have been some polls recently that we were running ahead of Biden in the African-American community. So, it`s not that I`m not popular. You know, Biden is running, you know, with his -- with his ties to Obama, and that`s working well.
MADDOW: But I -- let me -- I mean, let me be specific. I mean, in 2016, you knew that was a problem.
SANDERS: In 2016, we were running against Hillary Clinton. I was virtually unknown. Now, we`re running against Barack Obama`s vice president, who was very, very popular.
MADDOW: Do you have --
SANDERS: But what I`m saying to you, Rachel, is that if you look at the polling out there, I am not unpopular in the African-American community.
MADDOW: Are you satisfied with your numbers among African-American voters?
SANDERS: No, I want to do better. Of course not. We want to do better.
We`re doing very, very well with the Latino community. We`re doing very well with the Asian-American community, and we have to do better. So, we`re going to try to do better.
We have a great group of surrogates who are out there working hard on this thing. I think we will do better. I think the vote in the North will be different than the vote in the South, but you know, we are -- we`re running against some tough competition there.
MADDOW: Senator, Jim Clyburn, who is the revered figure in South Carolina politics who endorsed Joe Biden just before the South Carolina primary by all accounts to very great effect in terms of his ultimate performance in South Carolina. He told "The Daily Beast" today that you did not try to get his endorsement, you didn`t ask for it.
He said -- he was asked if you had courted -- if you had courted his support before the South Carolina primary. He said, quote, no, not really.
Is that true? And if so, why didn`t you?
SANDERS: Yes. Because I know Jim Clyburn very well, and actually, Jim and I worked together working with Obama to put $11 billion into community health centers, which is one of the very important parts of the Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act.
So I know Jim. I work with him.
Look, it is no secret. Jim is a very nice guy. And I like him and I respect him.
His politics are not my politics and I respect him, but there`s no way -- no way in God`s earth that he was going to be endorsing me.
MADDOW: Senator, I feel like, this isn`t anything that I`ve prepared to talk to you about, but I feel like just talking with you here something is becoming clear know, which is that I feel like your argument for your electability is flawless. And at least is something that resonates with me deeply.
I`m a lifelong liberal, and I have always wanted politics both around me locally and in my country broadly to get more to the left. I`ve always felt that way, and I believe that you are right when you talk about expanding the electorate and when you talk about trying to reach a diverse coalition, particularly people who think that politics don`t work for them. But it`s not happening in your campaign, and it`s not happening more so in your campaign now than it did in 2016.
SANDERS: Rachel, right now --
MADDOW: And I want to know if you have any analysis of why that`s not improving.
SANDERS: Let`s take -- let`s take a step backwards, OK? If a year ago, you had or anybody else had thought that somebody is running an unprecedented grassroots campaign, which has raised more money from more people than any other candidate in the history of this country, we`re taking on Wall Street.
You know that today, the stock market went way up. The health care industry and the drug companies did very well today. You know why? Biden had a good day yesterday.
All right, you`re talking to a candidate uniquely who has taken on the entire corporate establishment. You`re talking to a candidate who is taking on the political establishment. Mr. Bloomberg comes on board Biden, other candidates, and he will solidify his support with the political leadership.
We`re taking that on. We`re running a grassroots campaign. This has never been done in the modern history of this country in terms of --
MADDOW: You did it in 2016.
SANDERS: No, we didn`t. We lost in 2016.
We`re trying to build. Right now, we have far more support than we had in 2016.
So, we`re trying to do something that is -- we`re trying to transform this country, not win an election. Not just beat Trump.
We`re trying to break up large banks. We`re trying to substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs. We`re trying to do what every other major country on Earth does, provide health care to all people as a human right.
We have introduced most sweeping and comprehensive climate change proposal ever introduced by a federal candidate, which is why we have the support of the Sunrise Movement and many other environmental organizations.
This is tough stuff. So if I came to you and said, hey, you know, I just went to Wall Street. I had a fundraiser down the block. Man, we`re raising a lot of money. I`ve got my ads, I`ve hired my consultants -- that`s what candidates often do.
We`re doing it differently, and I would be the first to admit that it`s hard.
The real question is, how do we come this far taking on the corporate establishment, taking on the political, and taking on the corporate media if I might say so as well?
So I`m pretty proud of what we have accomplished. I`m proud that in the last number of months, we have had thousands of people knocking on millions of doors in this country. This is what needs to happen.
I will be the first person to tell you it is hard. OK? I`m not running a conventional campaign. This is -- we call our movement us not me.
I`m not saying vote for Bernie Sanders, we`re going to solve the problems. We are in this together because the only way real change, Rachel -- and I know you`re a student of history, whether it`s the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the women`s movement, the gay rights movement, the environmental movement, how does change happen? When millions of people stand up and demand it.
That is what this campaign is all about. So, it`s a different type of campaign, and we`re doing quite well within our context.
Right now, as of today, we may or may not be a point or two, a delegate or two ahead of Biden or a delegate or two behind him, when California was counting. I think that`s pretty good, and I think that given the agenda that we are bringing forth, that we have a shot to win the Democratic nomination and a shot to defeat Donald Trump, I think that`s pretty good.
MADDOW: You`ve also said that you`re running not only against the political establishment, but against the Democratic Party establishments.
SANDERS: Democratic establishment, yes.
MADDOW: You have a new ad up today featuring President Obama praising you in the past. Is President Obama part of the Democratic establishment that you say you`re running against?
SANDERS: No, and I want to say something about Barack Obama, somebody -- I`m not going to tell you he`s my best friend, but I talk to him every now and then, and I have a lot of respect for him. Do we have disagreements? Of course, we had.
But I will tell you something which impresses me very much about Barack Obama. I talked to him many, many months ago. Yes, we talked about the campaign, and I had called him up and I think all of the candidates basically had dropped -- and I dropped in to see him.
And he said, you know what, Bernie, I`m not going to get involved, all right? And he kept his word.
You may have seen him just the other day. He said I think Biden had reached out to him and wanted his support. And he said, no, I think I will be more effective in supporting the eventual winner and not getting involved early on.
I know that there`s an enormous pressure on him to support Biden, and the fact that he`s not doing that makes me respect him even more.
MADDOW: If -- if at the end of the day it turns out that Vice President Biden is going to have more delegates than you do heading into the convention, will you drop out?
SANDERS: Of course (ph) I`m going to drop out. He will win.
I mean, we`ll run through -- I suspect we will run through the process letting people have a right to vote, but if Biden walks into the convention or at the end of the process has more votes than me, he`s the winner.
MADDOW: And that`s true whether or not he has a majority or just a plurality?
SANDERS: Absolutely. I mean, that`s what I`ve said.
Look, here`s the story, and there`s some confusion about this. Last time around in 2016, you talked about 2016, you remember before the very first vote was cast in Iowa, Hillary Clinton had 500 superdelegates at her side. She walked and campaigned, got (ph) 500 superdelegates.
I thought that that was totally outrageous and absurd and undemocratic. We fought very hard in the Democratic rules process to get rid of all super delegates. That is my preference. I think it is -- it should be the decision of the people, not Washington insiders.
We lost, but what we did get is not getting rid of all superdelegates at convention voting but on the first ballot, there will be no superdelegates. So, in other words, we go into the first ballot, it is represented -- it is delegates who are represented by the people, and I think that that`s right.
Now, what I have said is I think it would be a real, real disaster for the Democratic Party if, you know, I`m running against you and you have more votes than me and I say, well, wait a second, I don`t want Rachel. I want somebody else who didn`t get as many votes as she did, let`s have the superdelegates vote on the second ballot, you know what that would do to the Democratic electorate? People would say the person who got the most votes didn`t get selected.
MADDOW: Most delegates.
SANDERS: Most delegates.
SANDERS: I`m sorry, most delegates.
MADDOW: I have one more thing I need to ask you about before I free you from my clutches.
SANDERS: All right. OK.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Senator Sanders is our guest right here in Burlington, Vermont. Back right after this.
MADDOW: We`re back now with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He`s candidate for president in the Democratic primary.
Senator, the Democrats started this presidential primary with a gigantic, historically diverse field -- tons of women, a bunch of people of color, a viable gay candidate for the first time ever.
Now, the great winnowing of the primary process has --
SANDERS: A couple of old white men and Elizabeth, right?
MADDOW: What do you say to people who find it a little depressing that the Democratic Party is going to pick likely one two of straight white guys in their 70s to run against the incumbent Republican straight white guy in his 70s?
SANDERS: Well, you know, I think, Rachel, we got to continue the fight for diversity. And the Democrats should be proud that it was -- it started off with a very, very diverse group of people, candidates, compared to the Republicans in general.
SANDERS: And second of all, though, I kind of think that when we look at a candidate, you`ve got to look at the totality of the candidate. Yes, I think we need more women in politics. I think we need more gay people in politics. I think we need more African-Americans in politics.
But at the end of the day, we also have to look at what a candidate stands for, you know? We can`t -- can`t ignore that.
And yes, I know, I am 78. I know I`m an old white guy. But I would ask viewers to go to BernieSanders.com, check out my record.
And for the last 30 years, I`ve been standing up for the working families. I was way out there on GLBT issues away before it was popular. I`m 100 percent voting record for -- on women`s issues.
And I am prepared to do what I think has to be done right now, Rachel, and that is -- we are moving in many ways toward an oligarchy form or society where very few entities and individuals have enormous power. And I`m fighting to restore or create a vigorous democracy in this country economically and politically.
And, you know, I hope people take a look at my record, contrast it to the vice president`s, and look forward to their support.
MADDOW: If it is -- if we have gotten from that giant field of over down to you and Vice President Biden with Senator Warren, again, considering her options at this point, is it 100 percent impossible to imagine a unity ticket despite your differences between you and Senator Biden? You and Vice President Biden?
SANDERS: You mean two old white guys on the ticket?
MADDOW: Yes, you guys are the last two guys standing.
SANDERS: Well, probably not. I think the American people don`t want -- one old white guy is probably one too many for some. I think we need a little bit more diversity than that.
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders, it`s great to see you, sir. I know that this is the middle of the whirlwind for you. So, thanks for making time.
SANDERS: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
SANDERS: Thanks for coming to Vermont.
MADDOW: Of course, any excuse. Especially in March.
All right. For the record, I do have to tell you, we are also trying and doing our damndest to get an interview with Vice President Joe Biden, who is the other front runner in this campaign who I have not yet talked to over the course of this campaign and would really love to.
All right. Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: That is just going to be about it for us tonight. Before I go, final reminder that Super Tuesday still isn`t over, far from it. Returns are continuing to come in from California, including since we have been on the air tonight talking with Senator Sanders here in Vermont.
As of right now, NBC News`s characterization of the California primary is still too early to call, which is funny because it was yesterday. Fifty-six percent of precincts reporting, Bernie Sanders currently leading Vice President Biden by just over 270,000 votes statewide.
Now, as for the delegates, there are 415 at stake. NBC has so far allocated 161 to Sanders, 100 to Biden. That means that a whole bunch of them are yet to be doled out all. Some of those delegates I mentioned were awarded tonight.
A reminder that this contest remains a very live race every hour. Another reminder that that this is a very live race, here`s my on-air plea to the Vice President Joe Biden campaign.
It was great to have this sit-down here with Senator Sanders. I came all the way Vermont -- to Vermont to meet with him, to do this extended interview. I would happily do the same for you. I haven`t talked to you at all since this campaign started. I`d love to. Just sayin`.
All right. See you again tomorrow night.
Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END