Sanders also gave tepid reviews to the legislation Democratic and Republican leaders passed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, saying it did not go far enough to help working-class Americans.
“My impression is that Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership made a good-faith effort to try to do some very important things. I myself would have gone further,” he said, adding, “they ran into opposition from the Trump administration, so they had to water down what they ended up passing.”
Sanders spoke in what his campaign billed as a “fireside chat” from his home in Vermont on Saturday night. Seated near a wood-burning stove next to his campaign manager Faiz Shakir, the senator ticked through the questions he said he planned to ask Biden, echoing his comments from a news conference earlier in the week.
“Joe has been part of the establishment for a very long time. Joe, what role have you played in trying to make sure we end this massive level of income and wealth inequality?” Sanders said, adding that he would also press Biden over his support from wealthy donors.
In effect, the debate might serve as a kind of public negotiation between Biden, who has taken a significant lead in the race, and Sanders.
Sanders campaign officials on Saturday also updated supporters on their plans to try to win voters remotely during the coronavirus crisis, announcing a “virtual rally” for Monday night.
“We’ve been thinking about how to handle this,” said Misty Rebik, national director of organizing and field work for the campaign. She said the event would take place Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern and that additional details would be announced later.
Rebik also said that residents of the states that are holding primaries on Tuesday should still plan to vote. Recent polls have shown Biden holding a wide lead in those states — Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio — reflecting the significant advantage he has opened up over Sanders in the contest nationally.
On the Saturday call, campaign staff walked supporters through the ways they could use an online app to try to build support among their friends and family and use phone-dialing software to make calls to voters in the key states. They emphasized that the focus was not on persuasion, but on identifying Sanders supporters and ensuring that they turn out.
Phillip Agnew, a surrogate for the campaign who was recently named a senior adviser and has been focusing on African American outreach — a weakness for the campaign so far — sought to draw contrasts with Biden ahead of Sunday’s debate, targeting his record on Social Security and other topics.
“I can’t wait for that debate tomorrow,” he said.