Biden allies wants Sanders out, sooner rather than later

Joe Biden’s allies are privately grumbling that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will not get out of the presidential race, preventing the party from uniting ahead of the general election. 

Sanders’s decision to stay in the race has Democrats worried they are repeating the problems of 2016, when a long primary fight was seen as hurting Hillary Clinton, the eventual nominee.

At the same time, frustration is growing among some of Biden’s aides and allies behind the scenes, as the coronavirus pandemic has effectively sidelined Biden and President Trump’s approval rating has been on the rise. 

Team Biden believes that it’s impossible for him to fully pivot to taking on Trump while Sanders is still in the race, and there are growing fears that they’re losing valuable time.

“I think he should get out,” one Biden aide said. “It’s a lost cause for him and everyone knows it. If you really care about beating Donald Trump, you’d get out and help consolidate the party in what is already a very stressful time for the nation. It’s not helpful to anyone to stay in period.”

The aide also said Sanders is unlikely to win more policy concessions from Biden by remaining in the race.

“I don’t think they can push [Biden] any more to the left than he’s gone,” the aide said. “But what he can do is solidify support and make sure we don’t have another four years of Donald Trump. The longer they stay in, the worse it is. At a certain point, it looks selfish and self-centered. Somehow he’s made this all about himself.”

Biden has not publicly called for Sanders to drop out. In interviews from his home, he’s barely talked about his rival at all. 

However, last week Biden said he didn’t see a need to participate in the final Democratic debate against Sanders, arguing instead that it’s “time to get on with this.”

Sanders does not appear to be feeling any pressure to drop out, and on Monday night he told NBC “Late Night” host Seth Meyers that he still has a path to victory.

“There is a path,” Sanders said. “It is admittedly a narrow path, but I would tell you, Seth, that there are a lot of people who are supporting me. We have a strong grass-roots movement.”

Sanders would have to win the remaining 27 contests by massive margins to catch Biden. National polls show that Biden has maintained a big lead over Sanders since winning primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois in blowout fashion earlier this month.

Following those primaries, Sanders said that he would reassess his campaign.

But Sanders has since determined that staying in the race is the best course of action.

On Monday night, Sanders held another in a string of online coronavirus roundtables that have been a hit with his supporters. Monday’s event featured campaign trail stalwarts, such as Cornel West, as well as music from popular folk act Nathaniel Rateliff. The Rev. William Barber III, an advocate for the poor, also spoke at the roundtable.

Allies note that the Vermont senator has not been campaigning in any traditional sense.

He’s pulled his advertising and is using his email list to raise money for charities that contribute to coronavirus causes. The Vermont senator has spent most of his time in Washington pushing for worker protections and corporate restrictions on the stimulus bills being debated and passed in Congress.

Sanders allies note that Biden can’t officially clinch the nomination until June because so many primaries have been postponed. There are still 27 states that have yet to vote.

They think it’s only fair that their supporters get a chance to cast a ballot for Sanders in the primary. And they believe that it’s critical to add a counterbalance to Biden that keeps the likely nominee sharp for the general election.

And not all Democrats are pressuring Sanders to drop out. 

Michael Trujillo, a Democratic strategist who served on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, said it still benefits Biden to have Sanders in the race.

“In 2008, we had a long primary that benefited President Obama,” said Trujillo, who supports Biden. 

“Senator Sanders has every right to continue. I just believe when organizing, it’s smart to give folks some victories so they continue to march toward justice. Unfortunately for Sanders supporters in these upcoming states, they will not benefit from that experience of winning.” 

But some donors and fundraisers are getting antsy.

“He’s had lots of time to bow out gracefully and now he needs to do the right thing,” one major Democratic donor said. “It’s April. We’re dealing with a global pandemic, the country is in a deep recession and the last thing we need is Bernie Sanders telling us what we’re doing wrong. Give me a f—— break. Time is of the essence. We all need to be on the same team right now.”

Another fundraiser was more blunt: “He’s an asshole. It’s over. Bernie folks are clinging as they always do.”

The back-and-forth comes at a strange time for both campaigns. 

Biden has been holed up at his home in Delaware, where he repurposed a room in his house to be a video studio so he can do remote television interviews.

Trump’s rising approval rating has been a source of alarm for some Democrats.

A new ABC News-Washington Post national survey released over the weekend found Biden and Trump in a dead heat. That poll showed Biden suffering from a deep lack of enthusiasm.

Still, some Biden allies say that it’s fine for Sanders to hang around, as long as he’s not attacking Biden or doing anything that might harm Democratic chances against Trump in November.

Howard Gutman, a former Obama administration ambassador, said he’s confident that Sanders will do what he can to keep his own supporters energized and ensure they turn out for Biden in the fall.

“The key is what he’s saying — if he were detracting from Biden or attacking him or doing anything to decrease from winning, that would be unacceptable,” Gutman said. “But if he’s keeping his base engaged and active and it comes at no cost to us in November, that’s perfectly fine.”

But Democratic strategist Basil Smikle said it’s better for the party to go ahead and crown the likely nominee. 

“With all that’s going on in the world and subsequent changes to the primary schedule, many Democrats would prefer to focus on a singular candidate to be against Trump,” Smikle said. 

At the same time, Smikle said the pandemic buys Sanders more time to talk about his main issue: health care. 

“At this moment in time health care is top of mind for most Americans, giving Sanders reason to stay in the race to push one of his signature issues,” he said. 

Tags Bernie Sanders Coronavirus Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Joe Biden
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