Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at Northstar Elementary School in Knoxville, Iowa, on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said Thursday night that he would “love, love, love” to run against Republican front-runner Donald Trump in the fall, suggesting he is confident he could decisively defeat the real estate mogul.

That was one of several prognostications the Vermont senator offered during an evening conference call with thousands of members of Democracy for America, the progressive group that overwhelmingly endorsed Sanders for president last month.

The talk of Trump was prompted by the Republican hopeful’s attention-grabbing campaign stop Thursday night in Burlington, Vt., where Sanders lives and served as mayor in the 1980s.

[Progressive group Democracy for America lines up squarely behind Bernie Sanders]

Trump told his audience that he would love to run against Sanders, calling the prospect “a dream come true.”

At a rally in Burlington, Vt., on Jan. 7, Donald Trump said running against democratic candidate Bernie Sanders would be 'a dream come true', but that he has his mind set on Hillary Clinton. (Reuters)

Sanders, who joined the conference call from Iowa, where he is campaigning for the next several days, said the pleasure would be all his.

“It would be a dream come true for me as well,” Sanders said. “I would love, love, love to run against Donald Trump.”

Sanders proceeded to repeat several jabs he’s taken at Trump in recent days, including calling him “a pathological liar” and mocking his contention from a couple of years ago that climate change had been created by the Chinese as a way to gain an edge over the United States in manufacturing.

“Where he comes up with these ideas, I have no idea,” Sanders said.

The senator also shared his assessments of where he stands in the early nominating states in his bid for the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton.

In Iowa, the first nominating state, Sanders acknowledged that “if the caucuses were held today, we would probably lose by a little bit.” But, he added, he thinks he’s gaining strength against Clinton there ahead of the Feb. 1 contest.

In New Hampshire, which holds its Democratic primary a week later, Sanders said he thinks he would probably win by a little bit if the election were today.

He said he’s feeling better about Nevada, which holds its caucuses on Feb. 20, and where Sanders, Clinton and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley all appeared at a dinner Wednesday night hosted by the state’s Democratic Party.

“We’ve got a lot of support in Nevada, and I think we have a shot to win,” Sanders said.

He stopped short of saying the same thing about South Carolina, the fourth state on the Democratic calendar. A pair of polls last month showed Clinton enjoying an average lead of about 40 percentage points over Sanders in the Palmetto State.

Sanders told the conference call that he thinks he can “do well” there.