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Sanders Viewed as Best Candidate to Beat Trump by Democrats and Independents Who Watched Latest Debates: Poll

"Most of the available empirical evidence show[s] Mr. Sanders defeating President Trump in the national popular vote and in the critical Midwestern states that tipped the Electoral College in 2016."

Supporters wave signs as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a New Year's Eve campaign event on December 31, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A plurality of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who watched either of the two most recent presidential debates believe Sen. Bernie Sanders has the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump in November, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll out Friday.

"The empirical evidence shows that there is no need for alarm about Mr. Sanders being the Democratic nominee, and even some cause for confidence."
—Steve Phillips, Center for American Progress

The survey found that 34% of Democrats who watched any part of the Nevada debate last week or the South Carolina debate on Tuesday view Sanders as the most electable Democratic contender, while 25% chose former Vice President Joe Biden.

Just 15% said billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg has the best chance of beating Trump.

"Of the top two candidates, those under age 50 were much more likely to say Sanders is the strongest candidate to face Trump, and Biden was considered best positioned by those over 50," ABC News reported.

The poll was based on a survey of 639 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents between Feb. 26-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

During both the Nevada and South Carolina debates, Sanders pointed to polling data and his diverse base of support to argue he has the best shot at beating Trump in the general election.

"What Bernie has shown us until now is that he has a very broad base of very, very passionate followers. That is the first thing you need for a campaign on any level."
—Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

"What our movement is about is bringing working-class people together, black and white and Latino, Native American, Asian American, around an agenda that works for all of us and not just the billionaire class," Sanders said on the debate stage in Las Vegas last Wednesday. "Those are some of the reasons we have the strongest campaign to defeat Donald Trump."

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Steve Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, wrote in a New York Times op-ed Friday that Sanders is correct to believe he could deny Trump a second term.

"Not only does most of the available empirical evidence show Mr. Sanders defeating President Trump in the national popular vote and in the critical Midwestern states that tipped the Electoral College in 2016," Phillips wrote, "but his specific electoral strengths align with changes in the composition of the country's population in ways that could actually make him a formidable foe for the president."

"The empirical evidence shows that there is no need for alarm about Mr. Sanders being the Democratic nominee," added Phillips, "and even some cause for confidence."

While some Democratic members of Congress have publicly voiced fears about Sanders' general election chances—and threatened to try to stop him at the convention in July—other lawmakers say they believe the Vermont senator's enthusiastic and diverse base of support could power him to the White House.

"I do believe he can beat President Trump," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary last August, told Politico earlier this week. "What Bernie has shown us until now is that he has a very broad base of very, very passionate followers. That is the first thing you need for a campaign on any level. Especially in a red or purple district."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) echoed Gillibrand.

"I absolutely think Bernie can beat Trump," Murphy told Politico. "He's done very well, I think his coalition is real and it's impressive."

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