VENTURA — Mere hours after challenging Republican frontrunner Donald Trump to a one-on-one debate, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) shared some “exciting” news with thousands of his fans who had gathered to hear him speak at Californias Ventura College on Thursday.
“We asked Donald Trump if he would be prepared to debate and it appears that Donald Trump is prepared to debate. And I’m very excited about it. And I think I have to rent out the largest stadium you have here in California,” Sanders told the roaring crowd.
Sanders sent out a tweet the night before accepting an invitation Trump had issued on Jimmy Kimmel Live!:
Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 26, 2016
During a press conference in Bismark, North Dakota on Thursday, following his rally in Anaheim the day before, Trump confirmed: “I’d love to debate Bernie. He’s a dream.” However, Trump suggested he would entertain the idea of a debate so long as approximately $10-$15 million in proceeds earned by TV networks for the debate would go towards a charity for women’s health issues.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 26, 2016
Sanders listed a series of topics he would be asking the anti-establishment billionaire during the potential debate ahead of the anticipated California June 7 primary.
We’re gonna ask Mr. Trump why he thinks giving hundreds of billions of tax breaks to the richest people in this county is a good idea. We’re gonna ask him why he thinks that wages in America are too high. We’re gonna ask him why he thinks we shouldn’t raise a $7.25 starvation minimum wage. We’re gonna ask him how come he thinks that climate change is a hoax when the scientific community is almost unanimous that climate change is causing devastating problems, and that we’ve got to transform our energy system. Why he thinks that in a nation in which our diversity is our strength, why he thinks it is appropriate to be insulting Mexicans and Latinos. Why he thinks it’s appropriate to be insulting Muslims and women. Why he thinks it’s appropriate to be insulting veterans like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). And maybe he can tell us why he was one of the leaders of the so-called birther movement that tried to delegitimize the presidency of the first African-American president we have ever had.
Sanders is trailing presumptive Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton by over 300 pledged delegates, and Clinton is less than 100 delegates overall from clinching her party’s nomination. Still, Sanders played the frontrunner, telling the crowd, “So I thank Mr. Trump for agreeing to debate and I look forward to defeating him and becoming the Democratic candidate.”
National polls have shown Sanders beating Trump in a potential presidential matchup by a far greater percentage than Clinton would do. During the press conference, Trump added that he would still consider debating Sanders, even though he believes Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s nominee — since the Democratic Party’s system is, he said, “rigged.”
“Bernie’s not gonna win, but I’d debate him anyway if they wanted to put money up for charity, so we’ll see,” Trump said.
Sanders disagreed. “The reason we will beat Trump in a general election is because of you,” Sanders told his fans. He attributed his conviction to the grassroots activism of his supporters, coupled with energy will that he predicts “will translate into a larger voter turnout in the general election. When voter turnout is low, Republicans win. But when people are prepared to stand up and fight back, we know we are prepared to put voter turn out as high and we win.”
He added: “What the american people understand is that we have got to bring forth a political revolution. We have got to redefine what politics means in America.”
There were some Trump supporters present at Thursday’s Sanders rally. When asked by Breitbart News why they were at the event, they said they wanted to understand what they are going up against on the other side.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz