MSNBC's Chuck Todd Doesn't Get Why Sanders Is 'Considered A Frontrunner' After Senator Wins New Hampshire

MSNBC host Chuck Todd expressed doubt about the validity of Senator Bernie Sanders being considered the frontrunner for the Democratic 2020 nomination on Wednesday.

"I feel like the only people who are going out on a limb and calling Bernie Sanders the frontrunner, they have other reasons to call him frontrunner," said Todd during an MSNBC panel discussion. "One person leads delegates, one person has a lock on a chunk of the party, but we don't know where this goes."

Sanders won a narrow but clear victory over former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, while Buttigieg managed an even closer win over Sanders in the Iowa caucuses. Both campaigns have called for recanvassing in Iowa due to multiple inconsistencies with the heavily delayed results. Sanders won the popular vote in both states.

Sanders supporters have accused Todd of being biased against the senator. The hashtag #FireChuckTodd trended on Twitter Tuesday after he quoted a conservative column that described supporters of Sanders, who is Jewish, as a "digital brownshirt brigade." The original "Brownshirts" were a fanatical paramilitary group dedicated to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

During the panel segment, political analyst Charlie Cook predicted that Sanders would eventually falter. He predicted that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would win the nomination despite failing to compete in the early stages of the race.

"We don't know where it's going but I'm willing to make some guesses," Cook said. "I think I know who the nominee's going to be. I think it's going to be Michael Bloomberg."

Sanders and fellow progressive candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren have both accused billionaire Bloomberg of trying to "buy" his way into the Democratic nomination. Todd stressed that if Sanders and Bloomberg are the last two candidates vying for the nomination, the Vermont senator could have an advantage.

"If that's your final two, the Bernie people are relishing that," Todd said. "Because it allows them to define Bloomberg as Trump at the same time and it allows them to play that game."

Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher disagreed that Bloomberg would be a strong contender and forecasted that Buttigieg could also have trouble for similar reasons.

"Bloomberg has the same problem Mayor Pete does," said Belcher. "He's got to prove just like Mayor Pete has to prove that he can in fact compete in diverse populations."

After Belcher touted the strength of Sanders, Todd again questioned the Vermont senator being labeled the frontrunner.

"I don't understand how Bernie is considered a frontrunner," Todd said. "More people showed up to the polls, highest turnout ever, and his percentage went down not up. His total number went down not up."

Panelist Neera Tanden, a former Clinton campaign official, said that she believes Democratic voters are still "shopping" for a nominee. She also maintained that Sanders had not expanding his base and compared his recent win to his much wider margin of victory in the 2016 New Hampshire primary.

"Senator Sanders has a strong group of support," said Tanden. "He hasn't been building that support. He did well yesterday but obviously not as well as he did a couple years ago."

Todd agreed that Sanders will need to expand his base to win, saying his campaign "knows how to get 25 percent."

Sanders was leading the race in a number of national polls as of Wednesday night. The Nevada caucuses are set for February 22 and the South Carolina primary will take place a week later.

Newsweek reached out to the Sanders campaign for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Chuck Todd
MSNBC host Chuck Todd reasoned that Sen. Bernie Sanders might not deserve the title of "frontrunner" despite leading opinion polls and votes in early 2020 Democratic primary contests. D Dipasupil/Getty Images for AWXII/Getty