Sanders: 'This is not a protest campaign'
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Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE on Thursday said he’s no protest candidate and that he intends to defeat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE and win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders acknowledged that Clinton is the “heavy favorite” and that he’ll be badly outspent, but insisted he can become the Democratic nominee.

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“There are candidates who stand up and run educational campaigns … people who use their campaigns just to get their ideas out and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said at breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

“This is not a protest campaign. This is a campaign to win,” he said.

The Vermont senator has spiked recently in the polls, but he still trails Clinton by nearly 50 points, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

But he argued that the current polls only reflect name recognition, and said there is a growing grassroots movement behind his campaign that will propel him to victory. He said his campaign so far has received more than 200,000 donations averaging about $40 a piece.

“I do believe we can win this election,” Sanders said. “I’m in this to win and that’s what we intend to do.”

Sanders blasted Clinton on trade, saying it offended him that the former secretary of State has declined to take a stance on the issue.

“I don’t understand how on an issue of such huge consequence you don’t have an opinion,” Sanders said.

He declined to directly attack Bill Clinton for giving paid speeches while Hillary Clinton was secretary of State, but hinted strongly that he believes those kinds of engagements are undertaken with the understanding that something is required in return.

“It’s not Bill, I have a problem with organizations giving out these kinds of huge honorariums,” Sanders said. “I don’t understand why they do it. I suspect they do it for favors.”

Sanders also had sharp words for President Obama, accusing him of running a campaign that promised to take the country in a more liberal direction, only to compromise with Republican leaders on a host of issues.

“The biggest mistake Barack Obama made in my view is that after his brilliant campaign in 2008 where he mobilized millions of people … essentially what he said to his supporters, was, ‘thank you for electing me, I’ll take it from here, I’ll sit down with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, we’ll negotiate, we’ll come up with some compromises,” Sanders said. “I will not make that mistake.”

Sanders is embracing the role of the progressive challenger to Clinton.

On Thursday, he plans to unveil legislation that would guarantee paid vacation time for workers as part of a “family values” initiative that also includes guaranteed medical and maternity leave.

“At a time when the middle class is disappearing and massive wealth inequality, our government has to start paying attention to the needs of working families in this country,” Sanders said.

He blasted Republicans, saying that to them, “family values” means limiting abortion rights, access to contraception, and keeping gays from getting married.

This story was updated at 11:21 a.m.