Top aides to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are pushing a new argument for his presidential candidacy: that he's the most electable candidate in the field.
"Democratic primary voters are very concerned about ensuring that they [nominate] somebody who can defeat Donald Trump," senior adviser Jeff Weaver said Monday in a conference call with reporters. "I think that we have strong indicators from the 2016 race that, in fact, Bernie Sanders is the person who's best positioned to do that."
According to Weaver and campaign pollster Ben Tulchin, Sanders' ability to turn out independents, working-class voters, young people and first-time voters could make the difference in a general-election matchup against the Republican president. Tulchin pointed to the so-called "blue wall" states of Wisconsin and Michigan, which Trump won in 2016, as pickup opportunities for Sanders, were he to win the nomination.
"We believe polling data clearly shows that Bernie's extremely well-positioned to win the Democratic primary and to beat Donald Trump in a general election matchup," Tulchin said.
Weaver said that the campaign is currently focused on building out teams in what he referred to as "the first five" states. Those include the traditional early voting and caucusing states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — plus California, which recently moved up the date of its primary election and has a robust early voting system.
Tulchin conceded that Sanders drew "almost no support" from African American voters at the start of the 2016 race, but he said that the senator had made inroads with them and with Latino voters since.
"Sanders comes into this campaign in a very, very different position with voters of color than he did in the previous campaign," the pollster said. "And it puts him in a very strong position to win the Democratic primary as a result of that broad, diverse coalition he has."