The Note: What’s Worrying Bernie Sanders?

30 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bernie Sanders brings liberal zeal in challenge to Hillary Clinton.

After months of fretting about a Hillary Clinton coronation, progressives are hoping Bernie Sanders is threatening enough to the Democratic front-runner to force a real debate. Sanders, the 73-year-old Vermont independent senator officially announcing on Thursday his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a long shot. But for now, he can command the liberal wing of the party and try to gain momentum to force Clinton onto his turf on three issues — income inequality, climate change and campaign finance reform. “The middle class in America is at a tipping point. It will not last another generation if we don’t boldly change course now,” Sanders will write in an email to supporters officially announcing a bid, according to excerpts provided by his campaign team.

Sanders starts with the support of some of the most liberal activists in the Democratic Party, the sort of progressives who favored Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio in his quixotic presidential bids. In the email Sanders calls for a “grassroots movement” to stand up to corporate interests and billionaires, hitting familiar targets of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gave rise to super PACs. Sanders, 73, the second-term senator, is an ardent supporter of left-leaning policies such as expanding Social Security and raising the federal minimum wage.

He also speaks about the need to address global warming, “the central challenge of our time.” The message to supporters is part of a low-key presidential launch. He has cultivated a following among some American liberals for campaigns on income inequality and social issues. “I am not a billionaire,” he told the MSNBC cable news channel in an interview that aired on Thursday. “To run outside of the two-party system would require enormous sums of money.” In 2010, Sanders stood on the Senate floor for more than eight hours lecturing about corporate greed and criticizing Wall Street as he sought to delay a tax bill that would extend cuts initially enacted by former President George W. Sanders will need to expand his reach beyond a heavily white, college-town demographic to other elements of the Democratic coalition, notably African-Americans. The former Burlington, Vermont, mayor will likely struggle against the fundraising might and name recognition of Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, senator and first lady.

Sanders could find similar support in New Hampshire, particularly along the western spine of the state, home to many of the state’s most liberal voters. And the only way to avoid doing that is to avoid being a third-party candidate from the left in the general election,” said Devine. “I think we’re going to have a surprise for you,” Sanders told ABC’s Jon Karl on “Good Morning America.” “We’re going to win this thing.” So far, Sanders has made few tangible moves to run a robust campaign.

Similar pressure comes from former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who has not formally entered the race but has staked out liberal positions on issues such as free trade agreements being negotiated by the White House. He has more than $4.6 million cash on hand in his Senate committee, but has courted no big donors and has only alluded to small-dollar online contributions as his main form of fundraising. (Sanders often jokes, rightly, that voters don’t need to worry about him accepting Wall Street and corporate donations because they would never give him any.) He has announced no big hires on his political team or in early states such as New Hampshire and Iowa. Sanders fails to win much more than 10 percent of support from the caucusgoers and voters in those first two states, whose electorates are overwhelmingly white, he will have a hard time remaining viable when the race turns to South Carolina, where blacks can make up more than half of the primary electorate. Sanders, who has called himself a “Democratic socialist,” will seek the Democratic nomination by imploring the party to return to its populist roots and boldly use government to address economic inequality.

He’s begun staffing conversations and appears determined about the challenge before him — he recently told a group of Iowa activists that he plans on hosting more town halls and house meetings in Iowa than any other candidate in the field. His speeches offer a gloomy vision of the country and feature little by way of soaring rhetoric that helped propel Barack Obama; still, he’s a fiery speaker that can rile up a crowd, as he did last weekend at the South Carolina Democratic convention.

Most of all, he’s established himself as a straight-talking alternative to Clinton, eyed warily by the liberal base for her Wall Street ties and more deliberate style. But more than 20 early-state activists that spoke with POLITICO — even those who support Clinton — nearly all said they looked forward to Sanders offering a jolt to a sleepy primary season so far and force the front-runner to sharpen her views. Sanders’s fiery populism, that old-time religion, will appeal to many liberals at a moment when the left is demanding action on issues of economic fairness, and class mobility has become a defining issue in both parties. They also say he hasn’t done much to build a campaign infrastructure or reach out to top Democratic leaders in the states — a particularly important task for the longest-serving independent in congressional history.

And there’s still the nagging impression from some that Sanders isn’t credible — to some, he’s Uncle Bernie from Brooklyn, the socialist, the kooky Vermonter. Martin O’Malley than Sanders when discussing the field — despite the Vermonter polling ahead of the younger Democratic hopeful in most surveys. “I don’t take his candidacy seriously. People close to Sanders say that Clinton comes up very little in private conversations about 2016, and Devine and Sanders have said repeatedly that he won’t run negative ads against Clinton. “He has to plot a completely different path that doesn’t have a lot to do with her,” he said last week.

He has called on her to oppose the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and criticized her in an AP interview Wednesday for voting for the Iraq War — an attack line used against Clinton by Obama in the 2008 primary season and recently invoked by potential Democratic challenger former Rhode Island Gov.

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