SPONSORED:

Democrats voice concerns over Sanders

Democrats who believe Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMusk's SpaceX has a competitive advantage over Bezos' Blue Origin New York, New Jersey, California face long odds in scrapping SALT  Warren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas MORE (I-Vt.) had a negative influence on the 2016 general election against President TrumpDonald TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE are increasingly expressing worries he’ll hurt the party again in 2020. 

The Democrats complaining about Sanders, some of whom have histories with former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCongress won't end the wars, so states must Democrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit MORE’s presidential campaign, argue the rhetoric being employed by the Vermont senator in some cases goes too far in damaging his rivals. 

They say it will make it harder for the party to unify around a nominee, and they’re particularly worried that supporters of Sanders won’t back any nominee who isn’t their favored candidate.

ADVERTISEMENT

“He needs to stop,” said one Democratic strategist, who is not affiliated with any of the presidential campaigns. “It's not helpful and it actually hurts the party. It’s like he didn't learn his lesson the last time. It’s incredibly short-sighted and terrible.”

This strategist pointed to the senator’s recent remarks in a Los Angeles Times editorial board meeting where he said that Trump would eat former Vice President Joe Biden’s lunch if he is the nominee. 

“Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, so I’m not here to, you know, to attack him, but my God, if you are, if you’re a Donald Trump and got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill. Trump will eat his lunch,” Sanders told the Times.

Biden isn't the only rival Democrat taking fire from Sanders, and it's not just those who worked on the Clinton campaign who are complaining about him.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats Warren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas Sanders: Netanyahu has cultivated 'racist nationalism' MORE (D-Mass.), the progressive candidate who has been a friendly rival to Sanders, on Sunday criticized her fellow candidate. Warren said she was "disappointed" that the Sanders campaign had been using a script for its volunteers to tell potential voters that Warren was appealing mainly to upper-income Democrats and would not bring in new supporters to the party.

“I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” Warren said. “I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction."

ADVERTISEMENT

Veterans of the Clinton campaign say it all looks similar to 2016. 

“In and of itself it shouldn't take on too much meaning,” said Philippe Reines, a longtime communications adviser to Clinton. 

“But if it's a harbinger of tone to come, that's not great. And I say that as someone who doesn't believe the primaries should be a cotillion or game of paddy cakes.”

Sanders allies bristle at the criticism, which they see as unfair to their candidate. 

They say Sanders isn’t doing anything other candidates aren’t doing in criticizing a fellow Democrat on policy points. 

“I don't see it any differently than Vice President BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE going after 'Medicare for All,'” said Larry Cohen, a longtime Sanders ally and chairman of Our Revolution, the organization that originated from Sanders's 2016 campaign. “It should be about the issues, and when we have differences and believe if something is better, we should say so.”  

Biden has made electability a core part of his candidacy, opening the door for Sanders and other candidates to argue that they, and not Biden, are actually the best nominee for the party to draw support in the general election.  

The Sanders campaign also takes offense at the notion that Sanders didn't help Clinton in 2016. 

In September, October and November of 2016, Sanders held 39 rallies in 13 states on behalf of Clinton's campaign. He did 17 events in 11 states during the last week alone, they point out. 

Reines argues that Sanders “needs to either accept the plain fact — supported both quantitatively and anecdotally — that his supporters did not go all-in for Hillary.” 

He said Clinton supporters in 2008 offered far more support to then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Kid reporter who interviewed Obama dies at 23 Obama shares video of him visiting Maryland vaccination site GOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump MORE (D-Ill.) after their tough primary than Sanders supporters offered to Clinton in 2016. 

“Giving him the benefit of the doubt about his intentions, he still needs to be mindful that at some point he might need to rally millions of people to support someone else. That’s not easy. You can’t just flip a switch. It’s a process. Your supporters have to believe you’re being genuine in your endorsement, and you have to convince them,” Reines said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sanders is rising in polls and increasingly is seen as a real contender in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary — and for the general election. A new poll released Friday found Sanders with 20 percent support and Warren in second with 17 percent, just ahead of former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegInfrastructure deal imperiled by differences on financing Biden says he and GOP both 'sincere about' seeking infrastructure compromise The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Colonial pays hackers as service is restored MORE (D) with 16 percent and Biden with 15 percent.

Some of the Democratic angst about his rhetoric seems linked to the idea that he could actually win.  

“Bernie Sanders is the Democratic Party’s version of Donald Trump. Thank god we are smart enough to stop him,” said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo, who served as an aide to Clinton. 

Biden’s support for the Iraq War has come under more scrutiny given the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. 

And it’s not just Biden who has mentioned it. Warren has also criticized Biden’s vote.

Sanders has generally been a bit more pointed in his criticism, however. In an interview with The Washington Post last week, he said Biden’s support for the Iraq War would make him a weaker general election candidate. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“It’s just a lot of baggage that Joe takes into a campaign, which isn't going to create energy and excitement,” Sanders said. “He brings into this campaign a record which is so weak that it just cannot create the kind of excitement and energy that is going to be needed to defeat Donald Trump.” 

Democratic strategist Eddie Vale said he’s “not as worried as everyone else” about Sanders's rise and rhetoric. But Vale does worry that the primary may become so contentious that unity will be hard to come by on all sides. 

“If someone more on the left wins the nomination, it will be equally damaging if all the more moderate folks who complained about Bernie supporters last time in the general [election] do the same thing,” he said. 

Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko, who served as an aide to Clinton during the 2016 election and an adviser following the election, said he worries that Sanders’s rhetoric will only cause his supporters to stay home again. 

“We’d all be better served if he focused his disgruntled energy on Donald Trump,” he said.