Manchester, N.H., became the center of the political universe on Tuesday as voting opened in the first-in-the-nation primary. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with presidential candidate and Sen. Michael Bennet. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: It's great to see you again, Senator. Congrats for getting to primary day. What do you think of this environment? It's a madhouse here.

Sen. Michael Bennet: It's a madhouse, but in a good way. And we need the opportunity to have a little restoration of our faith in democracy. And it feels to me like democracy is alive today in New Hampshire.

Mathieu: Did you feel that way last night during the president's rally?

Bennet: Well, that's a version of democracy as well. But I think that President Trump doesn't believe in the rule of law. He doesn't believe in the separation of powers. He doesn't believe in freedom of the press or freedom of speech. I don't think he believes in democracy. And the reason I ran for president is that I really believe our democracy is at risk. I don't think Trump's the main cause of that, but I think he's a symptom of a democracy that is weakening, and that deeply worries me.

Mathieu: You've been promoting what you call your 'real deal.' We talked about it a couple of weeks ago. And it's interesting to see kind of the split in the field as there's kind of a moderate lane, and then there's a more progressive lane where we find Sens. [Elizabeth] Warren and [Bernie] Sanders. You've been kind of locked maybe somewhere in the middle. Is that fair?

Bennet: Yeah, I'd say somewhere in the middle. But, you know, on health care, I think you and I talked a little bit about it the last time, we ran on health care in the 2018 elections. And we've flipped the House of Representatives. We won 40 seats in this country. Thirty-nine of the people who ran, ran on a public option, like the one I've written and proposed in this campaign. One ran on Medicare for all. That tells you a lot about the politics of health care. And I want us to be on offense going into this election.

Donald Trump is the only president in American history to take health care away from millions of people. And I do not want to put us in the position of having to defend a policy where Trump says, 'Well, they're just trying to take health care away from people.' I know people say, well, he's going to say that anyway, but we don't want to make that easy for him. And we should build on the success in 2018. And I think if we do, we can win this presidential election.

Mathieu: Speaking of health care, we have one issue in common. You live in Colorado. I live in Massachusetts. Both have been on the forefront of legalizing marijuana, beginning on the medical level. Now we have recreational marijuana and boy, things are getting confused. There has been apparently no consensus in Washington surrounding legislation to either protect those states or make this a federal law. If you were president, what would you do about it?

Bennet: I would try to make it a federal law. And we have seen recently a vote in the House of Representatives, I forget exactly what the issue was, but it was a marijuana-related issue, and it got broad bipartisan support and it actually got a majority of Republicans. Now, Mitch McConnell's never going to pass this stuff through the Senate, and the Trump administration has been incredibly hostile to it. But we need to, among other things, rationalize our banking laws so that lenders in communities like the commonwealth of Massachusetts and Colorado are able to make commercial real estate loans to enterprises that are in the marijuana industry.

Mathieu: But even that's not going to get through the Senate now, right?

Bennet: Not now.

Mathieu: Isn't that something? Joe Biden was just sitting in that chair a little while ago speaking with us, and he said, 'If you elect me, I've got coattails. I can get the Senate back.' How would you react to that? And is that even possible right now?

Bennet: First I would say that I think the real deal that you mentioned earlier, the plan that I put together, I think that's an agenda that could win us 55 Senate seats because it's one that I could run on in independent parts of the country, and I think even in some red parts of the country. And that's what we have to do to win those seats. You know, those are purple [states]. These are not the commonwealth of Massachusetts or Vermont that we're talking about, or California. [They're] tough states that we've got to figure out a way to win. And I do think it's possible. But we have continued to lose those seats to Donald Trump. And I think it's because we haven't been proposing an agenda that travels very well off the two coasts in America.

Colorado, you know, it's interesting, when you represent a state out in the middle of America that truly is a swing state, it really does give you a different perspective on, you know, what it's going to take to actually get stuff done. I don't want to spend the next 10 years fighting a losing battle for Medicare for all. I want to spend the next 10 years figuring out how to end childhood poverty in this country, create an economy that actually works for everybody when it grows, and attacking climate change. And we're not going to do that if we don't win these seats. McConnell said the other day, he was chortling about what he considers his victory: covering up Donald Trump's terrible misbehavior. And at the end of the article, McConnell says, 'I didn't hide documents. I didn't hide witnesses. They didn't have the votes. And maybe if they went out and won some elections, they'd have the votes.'

Mathieu: So elections have consequences.

Bennet: I hate to say this, but in this case, McConnell, I mean, I do think he hid documents because he helped Trump hide them. But he's right. We have to go out and win these races. You can't wish that America is going to somehow change. You can't wish that McConnell's going to change or Trump's going to change. We have to win.

Mathieu: So you just spent the last several weeks of your life as a juror in the Senate [for Trump's impeachment trial]. You were taken off the trail for it. You didn't get witnesses or documents as as the Democrats were pushing for. So was that a waste of time? Did that interfere with the campaign?

Bennet: Well, it interfered with the campaign, but I don't think that makes it a waste of time.

Mathieu: So you would have done that again, if you had the chance?

Bennet: Yeah, I mean, look, we had no idea going in that the Republicans would ban witnesses that were literally banging on the outside of the Capitol doors to say, we want to come and testify. But they chose to do that out of fear of Donald Trump. Well, there were 100 in America who had the responsibility to conduct a fair trial, and we failed our obligation. When the president did what he did, and by the way, over 51 of the senators have all said what he did was wrong. You know, and you would think that if that were true, that we would have wanted to get to the bottom of it. We still don't know how many of, you know, the so-called president's men were involved in this as well. So I think now it doesn't make much sense to look backward. We should be looking forward and doing everything we can do to make Donald Trump a one-term president.

Mathieu: What are you doing for the rest of the day to get out the vote?

Bennet: I'm so lucky, my family is here. My wife, Susan, our three daughters are here. And we're gonna be out talking to voters and we're going to be going to polling places, encouraging our volunteers and our campaign staff who've done a great job here.