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Colbert asks Rahm Emanuel: ‘Are you here tonight to kneecap Bernie Sanders?’

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Rahm Emanuel called a possible Democratic presidential nomination of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) “a really big risk” if ousting President Trump is a priority, prompting host Stephen Colbert to ask the former Obama chief of staff if he came on the “Late Show” to “kneecap” the Democratic front-runner.

“In the last hundred years, three Democrats have won reelection for president: Franklin Roosevelt, President Clinton, Barack Obama,” said Emanuel. He added that all three ran with a goal of building “an urban, suburban, metropolitan coalition.”

“Bernie is saying ‘Forget that. Screw it,’ ” he continued. “Basically, there are about 70 million socialists ready to be awoken to their inner socialist. And I would just say to you if our No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 goal is to get rid of Donald Trump, it is a really big risk to go on a political strategy that has never been tried before.”

“Are you here tonight to kneecap Bernie Sanders? Because you’re sweeping the leg, you’re sweeping the leg here, man,” Colbert said.

“No, here’s the thing,” Emanuel, a former Democratic mayor of Chicago, responded. “You have a presidential contest. You have the U.S. Senate with a good chance to take it. You have the House elections where we have a majority there. You have all the governorships, state houses up. So it’s not just a presidential. This is a national election of national import.”

“Why do you think Bernie is leading then?” Colbert asked.

“I think all the opposition is divided,” Emanuel said. “Ten years ago, 1992, 1996, if you won a presidential election, in 2008, if you had been third or fourth three times in a row, you’d be out.”

“But because of the internet and all the fundraising that’s going on, everybody is going to stay around the hoop, thinking this is not possible for Bernie to be there. So you have four or five people still in the field … and they should be by this time off the field and then it would go one on one.”

The back-and-forth came after Sanders won a decisive victory in Nevada on Saturday, cementing his front-runner status heading into this weekend’s crucial South Carolina primary, where Sanders has been gaining fast on former Vice President Joe Biden, who has led all polls in the Palmetto State for months.

Sanders easily won the Nevada caucuses. He was followed by Biden and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the third spot.

Sanders also led the 2020 Democratic presidential field a CBS News–YouGov national poll released on Sunday with 28 percent support, compared to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at 19 percent. Biden is at 17 percent in the same poll, followed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Buttigieg, who come in with 13 and 10 percent support, respectively. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is sixth in the poll at 5 percent support.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Michael Bloomberg Pete Buttigieg Stephen Colbert

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