— Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination would succeed even if he fails to prevail in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, saying in an interview with the Associated Press he was prepared to go the distance against front-runner Hillary Clinton.

“If I lose Iowa by two votes and end up with virtually the same number of delegates, is that a must-lose situation? Is that a tragedy? No,” Sanders said aboard a charter flight en route to Duluth, Minnesota, where he spoke at a rally with 6,000 supporters. “We are running a campaign that will take us to the convention and I’m very proud of the kinds of enormous gains we have made.”

Asked if the Iowa contest is a must-win, he responded: “That’s mythology.”

Sanders told reporters earlier in the day in Des Moines that if he could generate large turnout among non-traditional voters, young people and workers, he could claim victory.

“We will win here in Iowa if the voter turnout is high and frankly if the voter turnout is not high we’re going to be struggling,” he said.

He also dismissed speculation that President Barack Obama might be tipping the scales in favor of Clinton after the president praised his former secretary of state in a Politico interview. Sanders said Obama was “very generous to me.” He said both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are trying to be “objective and letting the people decide.”

The White House said later that Sanders would meet informally with Obama in the Oval Office on Wednesday and “there will be no formal agenda.”

For months, the tumultuous Republican presidential primary has masked a brewing debate among Democrats about their own party’s future.

Now, with Sanders chipping away at Hillary Clinton’s grip on the Democratic nomination, the differences are spilling out into the open as the candidates campaign across snow-covered Iowa.

At its core, the divide between Clinton and Sanders is about just how much to change current economic, health care and education systems, and what the federal government’s role in those areas should be. The candidates often share the same goals, but have different policy prescriptions and preferred tactics for achieving them.

Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats on Capitol Hill, has been unabashed in his calls for a “political revolution,” energizing his crowds as he urges them to join him in leading the country in a “new direction.” Reflecting the views of liberal Democrats, he sees the government as a vehicle that supplies Americans with the basic tools they need to achieve economic security.

If health care coverage is one of those rights, Sanders believes the government should provide it through a single-payer system, even if that means raising taxes. If higher education is now a requirement for jobs in a modern economy, Sanders says the government must guarantee free tuition at public colleges and universities.

Sanders touted his education plan this week through the prism of a young person who may be seeking to become the first in their family to go to college.

Clinton, a former senator and secretary of state, prefers to talk about “achievable” outcomes and douses her campaign remarks with reminders about how difficult nearly every fight a president takes on will be to achieve. With Sanders growing stronger, she’s taken to outlining his proposals during her remarks, only to explain to voters why they’re unfeasible.


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