COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Senator Bernie Sanders admitted he lost by a considerable amount in South Carolina when he ran for President in 2016 but thinks this time will be different.
Sanders spent the weekend campaigning in the Palmetto State trying to win over voters in the pivotal first in the south primary.
"South Carolina was a bad state for us,” said Sanders. "We are going to do much much better. I think we have a shot to win it here."
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 73.5 percent of the vote in the South Carolina Democratic primary, but Sanders only received 26 percent.
He said the crowded Democratic field works to his advantage.
"Last time, I was running against one candidate,” he said. “This time, there are 23 candidates in the race. So, you're not going to need 50% to win. You'll probably need 30% to win and I think we're in a strong position to get that."
Sanders is seen as one of the most progressive candidates in the field. However, he believes some of his policies can appeal to Republicans and Independents. Considering South Carolina is an open primary that allows all registered voters to vote in any contest they prefer, Sanders thinks he can attract those voters.
"Healthcare is a huge issue that I think speaks to Republicans, Democrats and Independents," he said. "The need to cancel student debt and demand that Wall Street pay a small speculation tax, that I think appeals to people across the board."
However, he did not hold back on attacking President Trump. Recently, Sanders called the president racist and a white supremacist but wouldn't say the same about people who voted for President Trump. When asked he said, "there should not be disagreement that we cannot have a president of the U.S. who is a racist, who is a bigot." He also called the President a "pathological liar."
In response to Sanders’ visit, the South Carolina Republican Party said he is “working to obstruct the President’s agenda and raise taxes on everyday South Carolinians. It’ll be an easy decision for Palmetto State voters to re-elect President Trump and his results-oriented leadership in 2020."
One of his many stops over the weekend was to a predominantly black church, Brookland Baptist. The community is used to high-profile candidates joining them for services or lunch, but some have expressed concern that candidates only come worship with them when they are looking for votes. Sanders said he understands that criticism, but believes his message is consistent.
"I would hope that people will look at my record and understand that what I'll be saying today whether it's on healthcare,” Sanders said, “whether it's on criminal justice, whether it is on a crisis of education, that is what I've been saying for years and that it was what I believe."
Sanders doesn't often talk about the role religion plays in his campaign. He is one of the few Jewish candidates running for president In American politics and said, while campaigning, he did discuss one passage in the Old Testament that resonated with him while he spends time on the trail.
“I was today in church and we were talking about the most important message in the Bible -- treat people with respect and dignity,” he said.
But Sanders has a long way to go between now and when voters hit the polls February 29 when he can turn his “strong position” into a win.