CHARLESTON, S.C. — Bernie Sanders, who suddenly is surging in the polls in South Carolina’s looming primary, once complained that too many southern states hold early primaries — griping that the calendar “distorts reality.”
The resurfaced remarks could prove awkward for Sanders as he hopes to further cement his front-runner status with a strong performance in the nation’s first-in-the-South primary this Saturday.
In a taping of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” in April 2016, Sanders, I-Vt., made the dismissive comment as he alleged the nominating process was “rigged” — after Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly defeated him in most southern primary contests.
“Well, you know, people say, ‘Why does Iowa go first, why does New Hampshire go first,’ but I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality as well,” Sanders said, adding that he performs better in more “progressive” states.
In 2016, Clinton was the clear favorite among black voters, a crucial segment of the Democratic electorate in southern states and elsewhere, whereas Sanders did well in mostly white states like New Hampshire.
The unearthed clip comes as Sanders is now surging in South Carolina, and aiming to take on former Vice President Joe Biden in the state once thought to be his firewall.
The latest RealClearPolitics average for South Carolina reflects a tightening race between Sanders and Biden, with Biden remaining in the lead with 26.8 percent of the vote. Sanders, though, is nipping at his heels with 21.7 percent.
Earlier this month, Biden touted the importance of South Carolina.
“It is important that Iowa and New Hampshire have spoken, but we need to hear from Nevada and South Carolina and Super Tuesday and beyond,” Biden said. “We haven’t heard from the most committed constituents in the Democratic Party—the African-American community—or the fastest-growing segment of the party—the Latino Americans.”
Biden went on to describe the importance of the African-American and Latino voters, saying that “you can’t be the Democratic nominee and you can’t win the Democratic nomination as a Democrat unless you have the support of black and brown voters.”
Biden’s support among African Americans, though, has decreased, according to recent polling.
Biden’s campaign has long considered Nevada and South Carolina, with their far more diverse electorates, as friendlier ground for the former vice president. Sanders overwhelmingly won the Nevada caucuses last weekend, but Biden came in a distant second place — which nevertheless boosted his campaign going into South Carolina.