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Ahead Of Wednesday Visit, Bernie Sanders Tells KCUR He Likes His Chances In Kansas

Phil Roeder

Kansas hasn’t gone Democratic in a U.S. Presidential election in more than 50 years, but ahead of his visit to Kansas City Wednesday, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told KCUR he thinks he’ll do well in the state’s caucuses on March 5.

“Sometimes to be a Democrat in a conservative state means that you are pretty progressive because you’ve got to stand up to the tide there,” says Sanders. “So we think we have a chance to do very, very well in Kansas.”

One potential roadblock for caucus goers might be KU basketball. The game against Iowa State on March 5 is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.—the same time as the Democratic caucuses.

Sanders says he was concerned about the conflict, but he told KCUR’s Steve Kraske that voters need to get their priorities straight. “Football and basketball is one thing. That’s a spectator sport, but democracy is not a spectator sport.”

The U.S. Senator from Vermont is in favor of President Barack Obama’s plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which the President addressed the nation about Tuesday.

“What Guantanamo stands for for many people around the world is a kind of black mark on who we are as a people. That we are just hiding away prisoners, and that’s not what America’s supposed to be about,” Sanders says.

Sanders, though, says he it’s not his job to say where to send the prisoners. Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran both have questioned the President’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, especially any plans to transfer detainees to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

That’s just the latest clash between Republicans and the President. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that they wouldn’t hold hearings on any Obama nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sanders calls it the latest in seven years of “unprecedented  obstructionism,” noting in the Constitution it is the President’s job to nominate Supreme Court  justices and the Senate’s job to advise and consent.

“It is not the function of the Senate to simply say to the President, ‘It doesn’t matter who you will nominate. No matter how qualified that man or woman may be, we are not even going to hold a hearing.’ That is terribly, terribly wrong,” Sanders says.

Sanders is locked in a heated battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is trying to hold on to his lead over a shrinking field of candidates.

Sanders, citing national polls, says he would match up well against the hotel billionaire in the general election. “I think we would win, and we would win big.”

Sanders will make a campaign appearance on Wednesday at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City. The political rally also gets him in front of Missouri voters, who will head to the primaries on March 15.

Maria Carter is the news director at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at maria@kcur.org.

When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.