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What's Next For Sanders on The Campaign Trail


Bernie Sanders is fighting to reestablish himself as the front runner of the Democratic presidential primaries. The fight for the nomination is narrowing. Here's how Mr. Sanders put it at a rally last night in Detroit...


BERNIE SANDERS: There were 20 candidates who were competing. Today, we are down to two.

SIMON: Six more states vote Tuesday, including Michigan. NPR's Kelsey Snell is on the road with the Sanders campaign and joins us from Detroit. Kelsey, thanks for being with us.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Joe Biden, as we've noted, won 10 states out of 14 on Super Tuesday. How has this affected the Sanders campaign now?

SNELL: Well, Senator Sanders really started talking about Biden directly in Phoenix on Thursday, and that continued into his rally yesterday in Detroit. You know, he started dedicating a lengthy portion of his remarks to Biden. And he does it by kind of posing questions to his supporters. Let's take a listen to that.


SANDERS: Who stood up when the going was tough?


SANDERS: That was just a rhetorical question. I didn't expect an answer, but let me start off.

SNELL: And where he goes from there is into kind of giving a list of the ways that he is different from Joe Biden. They talk about contrasting their records. And you can hear there that his supporters are quite receptive. The list that he creates there now spans the majority of his speech. And he talks about not taking money from billionaires, not having a superPAC, about his voting record on trade and the Iraq War. And that really seems to hit home, particularly last night in Detroit.

SIMON: How do his supporters feel now that, effectively, it's a two-person race in the Democratic primaries?

SNELL: You know, every - nearly every single person I talked to in both Phoenix and Detroit said they're worried. There were big boos for Biden's votes on some of those issues that we talked about. But by and large, the majority of people I spoke with said they're going to vote for whoever wins the primary. They say that they need to defeat Trump. And one person put it to me, I think, the best. He said he'd vote for a vacuum cleaner over President Trump.

SIMON: A lot at stake for Mr. Sanders in Michigan. It's a state where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of course, the state votes on Tuesday. What's his pitch to Michiganders?

SNELL: Well, some of the biggest boos of the night came when Sanders was talking about his record on trade. Now, this is a union state, as most people probably know. And this city, Detroit, is one whose struggles are pretty widely covered. And so when Sanders started talking about rebuilding infrastructure, that really seemed to get people excited, including when he talked about the water system and, you know, directly referenced the water crisis in Flint. That drew huge applause. He's appealing directly to blue-collar workers in this state. You know, Biden is also working to shore up support here. He had his new supporter, Senator Amy Klobuchar, out campaigning just a few - I mean, maybe driving distance from the rally that Sanders was holding.

SIMON: And Bernie Sanders has spoken in recent days about his concerns that young supporters might support him but haven't been turning up to vote in large numbers or as large as they could use. Do people at these rallies hear that message and react?

SNELL: They seem to be hearing it. He's talking about it in rallies and in press conferences. And most of the people here say that they are going to vote, but they're the diehards. So they're the people who were going to vote anyway. It's about getting everyone else to vote. You know, and I was talking to young voters. And I heard a lot of explanations like this one from 23-year-old Zachary Havletsalmi (ph) who came out to Phoenix.


ZACHARY HAVLETSALMI: I think it's just a cool thing for, like, kids to come here and be like, oh, you know, I went and saw this senator, this, you know, candidate running. And I got to be there with my friends. And really, you know, some people do it, it seems like, for Instagram or, you know, to say they did it.

SNELL: And that's a problem. He's got to get those people out to vote.

SIMON: NPR's Kelsey Snell in Detroit. Thanks so much for being with us.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.