Allies to Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE say the Independent senator from Vermont is increasingly likely to make a second bid for the White House in 2020 — once again as a Democrat.
“I expect him to run,” said Larry Cohen, the chairman of Our Revolution, an organization formed by Sanders operatives after their candidate lost the Democratic presidential primary to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE in 2016.
“He’s probably the most popular elected official,” Cohen added.
Sanders allies increasingly talk more confidently about the likelihood of a second presidential bid. Just a few months ago, the allies were more careful about his potential candidacy.
Jeff Weaver, who served as Sanders’s campaign manager in 2016, said Sanders “is being very thoughtful about” whether he enters the ace.
“He’s very focused on the question of beating Trump and putting a Democrat in the White House,” Weaver said. “And if he runs it’s because he thinks he’s the one to do it.”
Weaver added that he’s “convinced” that his former boss “is the strongest candidate.”
Sanders has a lot going for him if he does decide to enter the Democratic primary, political observers say. For starters, he would bring an infrastructure built during the 2016 election, and his die-hard supporters give him a base that would be the envy of many candidates in what is expected to be a crowded field.
He also seems to have momentum. Sanders has seen his brand of progressive politics take sway within the Democratic Party as reflected in policy and politics. A number of Democrats have latched onto his “Medicare for all” single-payer health-care plan.
And while Sanders has backed some losing primary candidates, his allies have also pulled off some huge upsets, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley in a New York Democratic primary and Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley’s defeat of Rep. Mike Capuano in a Democratic primary in Massachusetts. Sanders scored another victory with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s win in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Florida.
Nonetheless, Sanders will face a lingering challenge in winning over former supporters of Clinton who remain stung by the 2016 battle.
A number of Democrats continue to believe that Sanders has divided the party, was partly to blame for Clinton’s defeat in the general election and should not be considered as a party candidate.
“Sanders can continue on his quixotic presidential campaign but NOT as a Democrat,” said former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who worked under Clinton at the State Department and served as a surrogate to the Clinton campaign in 2016.
“He’s completely using the party to serve his best interests,” one longtime Clinton aide added. “He’s a Democrat only when it’s convenient to be a Democrat.”
Since the election, Clinton has reminded supporters of that sentiment.
“That’s not a smear, that’s what he says,” Clinton wrote in her 2017 campaign memoir, “What Happened.”
“He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party,” Clinton wrote.
Sanders allies argue he has every right to run as a Democrat.
Not only did he play a major role in shaping the party’s platform in 2016, he also helped campaign for Democrats around the country, including Clinton. He also caucuses with Senate Democrats.
“He’s more of a Democrat than most Democrats,” one Sanders ally said.
Weaver, who said Sanders isn’t paying too much attention to polls as he considers another run, thinks the senator’s independent status is a plus to a potential candidacy.
“If you look at the sentiment of the people, nobody wins the presidency with just the people in your own party,” he said. Sanders has “unique appeal” with independent voters, which he said is “an incredible strength.”
In his Senate reelection bid this year, Sanders ran as a Democrat but declined the nomination after he won the primary, only to run as an independent in the general election.
By doing this, Sanders prevented a Democrat from opposing him in November. He used the same political maneuver in the 2006 and 2012 Senate elections.
“A cynic might say the guy who complained about the rigging of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary is kinda, sorta, rigging the 2018 Vermont Senate race for himself,” journalist Aaron Blake wrote in the Washington Post in May. “It all suggests a guy who is still very much using the Democratic Party when it’s convenient for him.”
Sanders allies say he has to run as a Democrat in 2020.
“The way the Electoral College system works, it would be very unlikely for anyone to win” as an independent, the Sanders ally said. “And because of the Electoral College system, you could select Trump without the party.”
In 2016, the Democratic Party was accused of tipping the scales in Clinton’s favor and turning their backs on Sanders.
Asked if the party would support a Sanders candidacy during the primary, a Democratic National Committee official replied, “All candidates must meet the standards that are set forth in the Rules and Call.”
The rules, adopted in June, state that at the time a presidential candidate announces their candidacy publicly “they must publicly affirm that they are a Democrat. They also need to affirm in writing that they are a member of the Democratic Party, will accept the Democratic nomination and will run and serve as a member of the party.
The Sanders ally said if the senator does run for president in 2020, he will accept those conditions.
The ally added, “And he’ll be happy to help lead the Democratic Party and build it.”
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