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Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during the eighth Democratic 2020 presidential d...

Sanders brushes off concerns about his ‘democratic socialist’ label

Sen. Bernie Sanders says he’s confident Democrats can unify to defeat President Donald Trump, despite the president’s attempts to paint Sanders’ self-avowed “democratic socialist” label in a negative light.

Sanders opened Friday night’s debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, saying that he viewed energizing turnout as vital to a Democratic victory in November.

“No matter who wins this damned thing, we’re all going to stand together to defeat Donald Trump,” he added.

Sanders was asked to respond to Trump’s comments earlier this week to Fox News, when the president said, “I think of communism when I think of Bernie.”

Sanders brushed off concerns about Trump’s attacks: “Donald Trump lies all the time,” he charged.

Asked if they had concerns about a top-of-the-ticket candidate with a “democratic socialist” moniker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer raised their hands.

Former Vice President Joe Biden warned that Donald Trump and his allies would use the socialism label against Sanders and the party in a prospective general election matchup.

“Bernie’s labeled himself, not me, a democratic socialist,” Biden said before acknowledging his own political challenges.

Neither Elizabeth Warren nor Pete Buttigieg proved willing to criticize Sanders for embracing democratic socialism.

Warren, a Massachusetts senator, was asked about saying previously that she is “a capitalist to my bones.” But she refused to make a major contrast at Friday’s debate in New Hampshire, saying only, “Bernie and I have been friends for a long time.”

Warren said the “fundamental question” is “how we bring our party together” and talked about fighting government corruption, saying it is “an issue we can all agree on.”

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said he wasn’t interested in labels like socialism. He and Sanders went on to clash on policy rather than on ideological labels.

This is the final debate before next week’s first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.