Sanders, who has emerged as a surprisingly strong challenger to Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton as he campaigns on a message of economic fairness, noted at the outset that he has several “strong differences” with many Republicans, including on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage.
“But you know, Republicans have to send their kids to college,” Sanders said. “Working-class Republicans can’t afford to do that. Working-class Republicans have seen their factories shut down and moved to China. Working-class Republicans are equally disgusted about a campaign-finance system which allows billionaires now to buy elections.”
Sanders has proposed free tuition at colleges and universities. He has strongly opposed President Obama’s Pacific Rim free-trade accord. And he wants to overturn a Supreme Court decision that expanded the ability for moneyed interests to influence elections.
“There are more than a few Republicans for Bernie Sanders out there,” Sanders said during the interview, which was taped Wednesday and aired Thursday morning. “Don’t be surprised if we do well with a number of Republicans.”
Sanders has made a similar argument about the breadth of his appeal before, most notably during a speech last month at Liberty University, a conservative Christian school founded by the late evangelical Jerry Falwell.
During a convocation there, the senator told students that however stark their differences on social issues, they should agree there is “massive injustice” in the country’s economy and work together to address it. Sanders was greeted politely, but it was unclear how many supporters he gained.
Sanders has also argued that he will be helped in the Democratic primaries by an ability to connect to working-class voters, including those in rural areas, even if they have their differences on social issues.
While the Sanders claim certainly has its skeptics, aides point to his 2012 Senate re-election in Vermont, where he routed his Republican opponent with 71 percent of the vote.