GOP Sen. Tim Scott: Bernie Sanders poses greatest threat to Trump's reelection – aside from Trump himself

William Cummings, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Tim Scott said Monday that he thinks the Democratic candidate who has the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump in November is Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

"Bernie Sanders brings that outside game in a similar fashion that President Trump did in 2016," Scott said on CBS "This Morning." He said Sanders and Trump were similar candidates because they both faced opposition from their respective party's establishment, who did not think they could win.  

But the senator from South Carolina said the greatest overall threat to Trump's reelection was not Sanders, but Trump himself, implying the president's rhetoric can sometimes make him his own worst enemy. 

"If he's on his game, as he was at the State of the Union, I don't think there's a candidate in the country that can beat him," Scott added.

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Sanders has emerged as the Democratic front-runner after winning two of the first three primary contests. In addition to leading in the delegate count, the self-described democratic socialist has been surging in recent polls

Scott said that if the other candidates want to win they will have to "take Bernie Sanders on head-to-head" in Tuesday's debate in Charleston, South Carolina. He warned that if Sanders wins a plurality of delegates in the primary race but the party establishment tries to block him from the nomination, it could cause an "implosion on the foundation of the Democrat Party."

South Carolina's primary is Saturday. Until recently, Scott said former Vice President Joe Biden had seemed "invincible" in the Palmetto State. But Sanders has surged there as well, and after leading the pack by more than 20 percentage points for much of 2019, Biden has seen his advantage over Sanders shrink to 5 points in a CBS News poll released Sunday. 

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Scott said that while billionaire Tom Steyer has pulled some votes from Biden in South Carolina with his advertising blitz, Sanders has pulled many black voters into his tent. 

"Bernie Sanders is doing something in 2020 that he could not do in 2016, which is getting African Americans and Hispanic voters to take a second look at his campaign," Scott said. He said Sander's "Medicare for All" proposal was part of his appeal to minority voters. 

"He is undeniable a socialist, but he is strong and clear and competent on the issues he supports," Scott said of Sanders. "And the issue of health care is a big issue in the African American community, and I think it is the issue why he ended up with 51% of the Hispanic vote in Nevada." 

Scott said the easiest candidate for Trump to defeat in the general election would be former New York City Mayor and multibillionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg – who has based his campaign on being the best candidate to take on Trump. Bloomberg has argued he can pull in centrist voters who would be alienated by Sanders' progressive economic policies. 

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Without elaborating, Scott said he thought Bloomberg has been too "provocative" and "has so many challenging headlines." 

When asked about Trump's nickname for Bloomberg, "Mini Mike," which mocks the candidate's height, Scott he personally "would not call folks nicknames."

"But it worked in the Republican primary. I watched the candidate that I started supporting, Marco Rubio, be made into a caricature along the way," Scott said, referring to Trump's "Little Marco" moniker for the senator from Florida who was one of his chief rivals for the GOP nomination in 2016. 

Trump "understands media," Scott said.

"Everything feels like a show when he's on stage because he understands how to get the audience involved." 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bernie Sanders biggest Democratic threat to Trump, Sen. Tim Scott says