Bernie Sanders' Candidacy for President 'Built on a False Premise,' Says Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Bernie Sanders' candidacy for president is "built on a false premise," former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, referring to the Vermont senator's strategy of relying mostly on his base.

"Bernie Sander's view is 'I don't want these moderate fickle voters, we just have to turn out our base,'" Emanuel told CBS This Morning this week. "And to me, in six elections we have won one simple way. If you look at President Clinton's two wins, President Obama's two wins, the [2006] and 2018 midterms—they all come with the same paradigm of a victory, which is a big urban, big suburban turnout. It's a metropolitan majority."

The former chief of staff to President Obama also said he believes the way for Democrats to retake the White House is with a "very straightforward center-left strategy."

"His view is 'forget the center, we just want to be left,'" Emanuel said of Sanders. "That's never been tried."

Asked if he thinks Sanders would be too big of a risk for Democrats if he becomes the nominee, Emanuel said the self-described democratic socialist would be an "ideological risk." He added, "I don't think there's 70 million waiting socialists [in the country] to be woken that don't know that they are socialists."

Sanders is currently leading the Democratic field, with 45 delegates ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary, where 54 delegates will be up for grabs. Sanders has won the popular vote in all three Democratic contests so far—in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada—with a tight second-place finish in Iowa's delegate count. However, he faced backlash this week over his continued praise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's literacy programs.

At Tuesday's debate in South Carolina, Sanders continued to defend his views, saying his comments were similar to what Obama had said about Cuban education programs under the Castro regime. "Authoritarianism of any stripe is bad," Sanders said, adding, "When dictatorships, whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans, do something good you acknowledge that."

For Sanders to pull out a win in the general election using his current strategy, he would need a huge voter turnout, according to Emanuel, who doesn't think that can be expected. "The turnout in three elections has not been generated the way he says it has," the former mayor said.

Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders at the Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 25. Wim McNamee/Getty