Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont admitted Thursday that he is “stunned” by his rise in some of the recent polling on the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating contest, saying that while he thought his message would resonate with Americans, he didn’t think it would happen so quickly.
“You want me to tell you the truth … yes, I’m stunned,” Mr. Sanders told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Look, we have a message that I believe[d] from day one was going to resonate with the American people.”
Mr. Sanders was a percentage point ahead of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a Quinnipiac poll in Iowa released Thursday and has moved ahead of her in New Hampshire in the latest RealClearPolitics average of recent polling.
“And the message is there’s something wrong in this country when the great middle class continues to disappear. Almost all new income and wealth goes to the top 1 percent, when millions of families cannot afford to send their kids to college, when we’re not addressing the planetary crisis of climate change,” said Mr. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.
“And, Wolf, a huge issue out there. We have a corrupt campaign finance system as a result of Citizens United where billionaires are now able to buy elections,” he continued. “The American people are saying no, this is not the kind of country we want to be. So I thought that those issues would resonate. But did I think they would resonate as quickly as they have? The answer is no.”
Mr. Sanders said the controversy over the private email system Mrs. Clinton used as secretary of state is “clearly not helping her” but that he feels he’s doing well because the issues he’s talking about are resonating.
“People are sick and tired of establishment politics. They’re sick and tired of establishment economics. They don’t want to see billionaires getting more tax breaks and cuts to Social Security, which is what many of my Republican colleagues are proposing, and, by the way, don’t get upset with me here, they’re getting tired of establishment media,” he said. “They would rather see serious discussion about serious issues rather than so much of what we see.”
He said Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s decision on whether to jump into the race is “very much a personal decision that the vice president has to make,” calling Mr. Biden “an incredibly decent guy.”
“All I say is that if Joe Biden gets into the race, I will do my best to make sure that we have an issue-oriented campaign,” he said. “I don’t do negative ads. I don’t engage in personal attacks. Let’s debate the issues. If Joe gets in, that’s great. If he doesn’t, that’s OK, too.”
Asked if he could really see himself being president of the United States, Mr. Sanders said: “Increasingly, yes.”