Going West: Bernie sees more victories in 'progressive territory' (EXCLUSIVE)

On the eve of the Wisconsin primary, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders sat down with RT America’s Ed Schultz to talk about the campaign, debating rival Hillary Clinton, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s embarrassing economics and more.

The Vermont senator told Schultz that winning Wisconsin will give him momentum heading into the next big primary in Clinton’s home state of New York. If he can win there, Sanders said, Democrats across the country will realize that he’s “the guy who is going to win not only the nomination, but defeat Trump.” Sanders called the billionaire businessman “an embarrassment… even to sane Republicans,” and bashed Clinton for how much money she has taken in from the fossil-fuel industry.

Ed Schultz: How important is Wisconsin on the reel of these wins that you’ve had, setting up New York?

Bernie Sanders: Well, that’s right. We have won now six out of seven of the last caucuses and primaries ‒ we’re on a roll. If we can win here in Wisconsin ‒ and I think we will, if there is a big turnout ‒ that would make seven out of eight, that takes us to Wyoming and then to New York state. And if we can get into New York state with a real bounce, with real momentum, I think we got a real shot to win that. And if we can beat Hillary Clinton in her own home state, I think you’ve got a lot of Democrats all over this country saying, "You know what? Bernie Sanders is the guy who is going to win not only the nomination, but defeat Trump."

ES: Not the cart before the horse, but if you win Wisconsin and this happens in New York as well, you think that’s a superdelegate turn?

BS: Oh, yeah. Look, you know, most of these superdelegates, to be honest with you, you know, I think their inclination is to support Hillary Clinton, but their strongest desire is to make sure that people like [Donald] Trump does not get into the White House. And on that we are all agreed 100 percent. I think, Ed, if you look at all of the polling, all of the polling, they show me as a much stronger candidate against Trump than Hillary Clinton. Last CNN poll had me up by 20 points, a far higher margin than Hillary. The last Wisconsin poll, right here, had me up by 19 points over Trump; again, a significant difference between Hillary and myself against him.

ES: So this is kind of a real pivotal time in the entire campaign then…

BS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Look, we went through the Deep South, and, you know what, I don't have to tell you, the Deep South is a pretty conservative part of the country. We did poorly, no ifs, buts and maybes. She collected a whole lot of delegates. Well, guess what? We’re out of the Deep South. We’re heading west into more progressive territory ‒ now we are winning.

ES: What’s the significance of Janesville, considering you’ve been hitting trade so hard?

BS: Well, we are here right now in a UAW [United Auto Workers] hall, in a hall that used to represent thousands of workers in a General Motors manufacturing plant. Those jobs have left a number of years ago ‒ they left in 2008 ‒ and a good number of those jobs went to Mexico, and that is true for many other companies here in Wisconsin. So what we have seen in our trade policies ‒ NAFTA; CAFTA; permanent, normal trade relations with China ‒ is the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs in this country, jobs going to low-wage countries, products coming back. We have got to change our trade policy. But it is not an accident that we are sitting here today in a UAW office in Janesville.

ES: Senator, what’s your reaction to Hillary Clinton on the ropeline the other day saying the Sanders campaign is lying about fundraising?

BS: Well, I think that that is an indication of the nervousness and kind of the desperateness of that campaign. This person who is on the ropeline is not a Bernie supporter; she is an environmental activist who told ‒ or at least made it public ‒ that Greenpeace, one of the great environmental organizations in the world, indicated that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has raised some $4.5 million from the fossil-fuel industry, she has 43 paid lobbyists representing the fossil-fuel industry who gave her the maximum legal amount. I believe that indicates that she is getting significant sums of money from the fossil-fuel industry.

ES: Has [Republican Governor] Scott Walker’s legacy here in Wisconsin ‒ you’ve invoked his name a few times, and of course he’s gone after young voters, and that’s your wheelhouse.

BS: I think that Scott Walker’s ideology of trying to break unions, of giving tax breaks to corporations, cutting education, of going after a woman’s right to choose, that is not what the people of America want to see, that is not what the people of Wisconsin want to see. And I often say if you want to see what a Sanders administration is going to be about, it’s pretty much exactly the opposite of what a Scott Walker administration is in Wisconsin.

ES: Trump says he can balance the budget in eight years. Your response to that?

BS: That’s total nonsense. I mean, I think Trump has become an embarrassment not only to the American people, but even to sane Republicans. I mean, all that he is doing is saying, ‘If I do A, B and C in some miraculous, ahistorical way, the economy will explode and we’ll have all of this tax revenue’. This is trickle-down economics on steroids: It has never happened, it never will be happening…

ES: Final question: debates. Why is this such a struggle back-and-forth of the campaigns on debates, especially in New York?

BS: I think that, you know, from my perspective it’s pretty clear: We want to see debates on networks and at times we have the maximum viewing audience. I think that’s the right thing to do. Secretary Clinton wants to see debates at times when you’re going to have smaller audiences…

ES: Not during the [college national championship] basketball game tonight?

BS: (laughs) That was one of their suggestions! I mean, that kind of tells you where they’re at! The NCAA finals tonight, right?

ES: Yeah.

BS: That’s when they wanted to hold the debate. That’s kind of where they are coming from. So I hope we can resolve it ‒ frankly, I think we can ‒ put it on one of the networks, and let’s get out to millions of people that people watch the differences of opinions that we have.

ES: 43 million [dollars] last month. You stunned by that?

BS: I am. This whole fundraising has blown me away. We have received 6 million individual contributions, averaging $27 a piece. Who woulda thought that, Ed?!

ES: I did!

BS: Did you? All right, you’re smarter than me.