SALEM, N.H. -- Speaking to an intimate group of voters Monday morning, less than 24 hours before the start of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, Donald Trump acknowledged that he wasn't sure whom he would face in November if he becomes the Republican nominee.
“To think that we are running against possibly a socialist,” Trump said with a laugh, pointing out Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) lead in the polls in New Hampshire and national polls showing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ahead of Sanders within the margin of error. “I don’t really say 'Hillary' anymore, because I don’t know if I’m running against her.”
As Sanders has continued to gain in the polls, many of which show strong numbers for him in New Hampshire, Republicans are starting to acknowledge that they might indeed face the avowed democratic socialist in the general election -- something Trump says he never expected.
“He’s winning, it’s hard to believe,” Trump continued. “This would have been impossible to think of 10 years ago. He’s actually winning. Someone asked me this morning, would I rather run against Hillary or Bernie? I’m not even sure how to answer the question. It’s kind of shocking.”
Trump suggested that he didn’t know how he’d do against Sanders in the general election. He said that several polls show Trump coming out the winner in a hypothetical Trump-Clinton contest.
“I do really well against Hillary, so I know what I have,” he said enthusiastically. “Polls have been taken where I beat her pretty easily. I don’t know with Bernie. I know I’ll beat him eventually.”
Sanders has repeatedly lashed out at Trump during his campaign, specifically calling out the real estate mogul’s remarks on immigration as “racist” and “playing on people’s fears.”
Several voters at the event at the Derry-Salem Elks Lodge said that no matter who ultimately gets the Republican nomination, Sanders could be a more difficult opponent for them than Clinton.
“I think Bernie would be a harder fight for [Trump],” said Diane Hartford, 69, of Salem, who has decided to vote for Trump in Tuesday's primary.
“All of the things that Bernie has come through with -- that close race in Iowa, and he’s got the youth vote," she said. "That will be more difficult for Mr. Trump. But he’ll still win."
Maeve McGrotty, who says she will not be voting for Trump in the primary, acknowledged that it's possible Trump could face Sanders in November. That scenario, she said, might not end so well for the business mogul.
“It’s crazy that it could be between socialism and Trump,” McGrotty said. “It’s going to be the millennials that decide on this. And if he’s up against Bernie, I think he’ll probably lose that fight.”
Trump said that while Sanders hasn't really been on his radar thus far, he’s going to start paying more attention to the senator.
“I haven’t focused on him yet,” Trump said with a grin. “I look forward to focusing on him, because he’s got a record that’s not a good record.”
Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and
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