The Corner

Elections

Maybe It’s a Little Early to Write Off Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Dover, N.H., September 1, 2019. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

For a guy who’s supposed to be slowly fading into the second tier, Bernie Sanders had a good third quarter of fundraising, announcing this morning that his campaign raised $25 million in the past three months. (One wrinkle: Sanders’ campaign did not specify how much cash on hand he has left.)

The upshot is that Bernie Sanders will probably have enough financial resources to stay in the presidential race as long has he likes, all the way to the Democratic convention in Milwaukee if he wants. As of this morning, he’s still a respectable third nationally in the RealClearPolitics average nationally (17.8 percent), third in Iowa (12 percent), third in New Hampshire (18.8 percent), second in Nevada (21.7 percent), and third in South Carolina (15 percent, and Elizabeth Warren is at 15.7 percent). And fairly or not, a lot of Democratic race-watchers see Joe Biden’s campaign as a ticking time-bomb with a gaffe-prone candidate and the Hunter Biden stuff now getting more play.

The good fundraising news comes just as Sanders could really use it. Politico wrote yesterday, “With just four months until the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Sanders is in trouble. As he delivered his populist gospel to large crowds of camouflage-clad high schoolers, liberal arts college students, and trade union members across Iowa last week, a problematic narrative was hardening around him: His campaign is in disarray and Elizabeth Warren has eclipsed him as the progressive standard-bearer of the primary.”

Is Sanders really in that much trouble? He was recently seen having lunch with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (An endorsement from AOC would carry the implication that Warren isn’t quite progressive enough. As discussed on The Editors podcast a few weeks ago, that Sanders-Warren truce is going to be broken eventually. The two senators might respect and like each other, but they both need to argue that they are the best choice for the nomination. There’s some indication that their respective groups of supporters don’t respect and like each other, considering the complaints about the “Bernie Bros.”)

The “disarray” in Sanders’ campaign was driven by fights about whether he was spending enough time in Iowa and New Hampshire, and he’s inevitably going to spend more time in those states as the contests get closer. Last time around, Sanders came within a few coin tosses of winning the Iowa caucuses and cleaned Hillary Clinton’s clock in New Hampshire.

The coming impeachment will suck a lot of oxygen out of the political media atmosphere, meaning second and third-tier candidates who aren’t currently in the House and Senate will appear even less relevant. Sorry, Mayors Buttigieg and Castro, and former congressman O’Rourke.

Last week, our Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote an astute piece noting that  “if this is the beginning of the end for [Sanders], it’s not too early to note that he has had a profound effect on our politics.” Few politicians can change the direction of their parties, and if Sanders can do that, he probably shouldn’t be ruled out for the 2020 Democratic nomination yet.

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