Jane Sanders emerges as Bernie’s go-to messenger

Jane Sanders has emerged as her husband’s most prominent surrogate as the campaign fights against the momentum pushing Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton toward the nomination.  

She has been an almost constant presence on television this week, exuding confidence in interviews across the three major cable networks and countering speculation about the campaign’s demise. 

{mosads}Her positive approach has worked to steer the campaign back on message, despite signals that the hard-pressed Bernie Sanders campaign may begin to shift focus to ensuring the Vermont senator’s message is reflected in the party’s platform under Clinton. 

“[We are] absolutely in it to win it,” Jane Sanders said Thursday during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” 

“In mid-March, after a string of losses, the media wrote his political obituary, and we came back to win eight in a row. So we’re expecting to do the same here.” 

It’s an unlikely prediction — Clinton’s big Tuesday night brought her even closer to the nomination, while Sanders’s window shrinks toward mathematical improbability.  

And his campaign this week has been dogged by a number of storylines that threatened to further throw the campaign off its game.

The New York Times reported that the senator would reassess his campaign after Tuesday’s primaries, where he lost all but one state, Rhode Island, to Clinton. And the campaign slashed hundreds of staffer positions from states that have already voted — instead of reallocating them to remaining states — news that further fanned the flames.

Since Tuesday’s dim outcome for Sanders, his wife has surfaced as the face of the campaign’s media message, defending the recent eyebrow-raising moves during a Tuesday interview on MSNBC

“No, no, no. We assess on an everyday basis,” she said, laughing off the implication that her husband could step aside.  

“Even if he had a string of eight wins, eight in a row, or won states by landslide victories, no one in the media, and certainly not The New York Times, has ever said he has a chance to win. That’s not right.” 

Days later, she took it a step further, predicting that he’d close with a major winning streak. 

She’s also kept up the pressure on the Clinton camp, hitting the front-runner for not releasing her paid speech transcripts and her lack of progressive chops on issues like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, while also landing a gentle blow on the investigation into her private email server.  

“It’s an FBI investigation, and we want to let it go through without politicizing it,” she said on Fox News on Thursday. 

“That’s how we still feel. I mean, it would be nice if the FBI moved it along.”

While Jane Sanders has been an integral player in the campaign from the start, as well as the occasional television surrogate, this week brought a significant uptick in exposure.

She has made at least three appearances each on MSNBC and CNN, with another on Russia Today. And she sat for a 10-minute interview on Fox News, a network not typically on the top of the list for those trying to reach Democratic primary voters. 

Her comments haven’t been all rosy — she has at times entertained the possibility that Bernie Sanders wouldn’t become the nominee but argued that he’d be a “force to be reckoned with,” regardless of the Democratic National Convention’s outcome this July. 

Tad Devine, one of Sanders’s top aides, told The Hill that Jane’s increased presence on television this week is simply a product of her being back home in Vermont after a stint off the trail. But he lauded her surrogate skill as “incredibly valuable to the campaign.” 

“She has a tremendous presence speaking on his behalf. She really communicates very effectively for him, she knows him so well,” Devine said. 

“She can speak personally to not only the issues that he’s talking about, but the motivation behind those issues. I can’t think of any of us who has more credibility speaking to that, and that’s really important to voters.”

Devine said her willingness to answer tough questions — including policy questions or contrasts with Clinton — doesn’t come from a campaign directive but from the honesty voters believe defines the Sanders duo. 

“Jane is not sent out there, nor does she want to deliver any type of negative message,” he said.  

“She will answer questions, even if they reflect on an aspect of Secretary Clinton and her campaign that isn’t exactly positive. … She’s very straightforward and honest when she is asked a question. Political people may have more of a tendency to evade, but Jane, her tendency is to answer them.” 

A former college president, Jane Sanders has been married to the Democratic presidential hopeful through his entire House and Senate career, so she’s no stranger to the political process. A 1996 profile notes she served as “her husband’s chief of staff and policy adviser” in the House and “wrote more than 50 pieces of legislation” over her husband’s first six years in office. 

She continues to serve the campaign at a “senior level,” Devine said, a key adviser especially on Bernie Sanders’s issues platform, scheduling and advertising. 

And Sanders has far fewer surrogates to choose from than his rival — adding to his reliance on his wife’s messaging.  

The Vermont senator only has the backing of a handful of lawmakers, compared to the stable that defends Clinton on the airwaves, not to mention a uniquely valuable surrogate in former President Bill Clinton. 

President Clinton has redefined the role of a surrogate spouse, drawing major crowds himself and holding his own healthy schedule of events. He’s largely seen as a positive for Clinton but has drawn his share of negative headlines. 

But while Jane Sanders has less celebrity than the former president, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, who praised her as “very effective,” said utilizing her is a no-brainer.  

“He’s running against a woman whose husband is a powerful and effective surrogate for her. If it turns out that Jane Sanders can be for her husband, then why not?” he said. 

“It’s like a tag-team match.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Bill Clinton Hillary Clinton

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