Bernie Sanders has made one thing abundantly clear in his campaign: He's not the candidate for the billionaires or Wall Street. But on Tuesday night at a CNN town hall just days before the South Carolina primary, he may have surprised some by saying that he doesn't despise all the rich.
"Look, there are great billionaires. People who are serious," Sanders said when asked if there were any whom he admires. "I don't agree with everything that Bill Gates has done, but you know, this is a guy who has made massive investments in education and health care around the world. He's not just sitting on his money. He's trying to make the world a better place."
In contrast with Gates, Sanders often vilifies the billionaire Walton family, the founders of Wal-Mart. Their name comes up often in his stump speech: he claims the "starvation wages" they pay force Wal-Mart employees to go on welfare.
But Sanders said he does not have a "personal vendetta" against people with a lot of money.
Still, many of the Vermont senator's plans would be funded by taxing the wealthy. At the town hall, a banker in the audience asked how Sanders would make a difference and where the money is coming from.
"I'm going to pay for that through a tax on Wall Street speculation. When Wall Street collapsed because of their greed, you know what? You bailed them out. Now I think maybe it's time for Wall Street to help the middle class," Sanders explained.
The Vermont senator also bashed the recent insistence of Senate Republicans that a Supreme Court nominee appointed by President Obama would not be given a confirmation hearing.
"What you are seeing today in this Supreme Court situation is nothing more than the continuous and unprecedented obstructionism that President Obama has gone through," Sanders said. He then named one justice he had great admiration for: the first African-American on the bench, appointed by John F. Kennedy.
"Thurgood Marshall was a damn good Supreme Court justice," he added.
Cigarette companies also took a beating from Sanders on Tuesday night.
"They go into countries and they come up with these colorful packages and they have these pretty girls literally giving out -- like heroin dealers, literally giving out cigarettes to kids to get them hooked on nicotine," Sanders said.
Sanders also shared a more personal anecdote - which is rare for him -- when he talked about cigarettes.
"My dad smoked two or three packs a day. I remember him like it was yesterday, going before -- waking up in the morning and coughing and coughing and coughing. He died young and cigarettes certainly contributed to that," Sanders said, connecting to the questioner, Dave Sprung, the student at Fuhrman University, whose own father had died of lung cancer.
Near the end of the town hall Sanders talked about what it means to have the support of the everyday Americans he has met on the campaign trail. These are the people that he wants to fight for, against those who are "abusing power that they have."
"It scares me very much," Sanders said. "If I ever let those people down it would be a terrible, terrible thing."