Don’t look now, but Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFilibuster becomes new litmus test for Democrats Gallego says he's been approached about challenging Sinema Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (I-Vt.) is rising in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary polls and is once again drawing both large crowds at campaign stops and Bernie Bros back to their keyboards.
And just like in 2016, Sanders is already giving many Democrats and their allies heartburn.
Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksSouthern California Democrats throw their weight behind Young Kim challenger Ex-special envoy: Biden's approach to Haiti a 'recipe for disaster' House passes bills to pressure China amid Olympic boycott MORE (D-N.Y.) recently said Sanders should not be allowed to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, because “[h]e’s not a Democrat.”
When asked why Sanders won’t refer to Venezuelan strongman Nicholas Maduro as “a dictator” or take a position on whether the socialist dictator must go, Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) insinuated that it just doesn’t really matter because Sanders “is not going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party.”
And then there are the former staffers of 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNo Hillary — the 'Third Way' is the wrong way The dangerous erosion of Democratic Party foundations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE who claim that Sanders was far from a team player when he lost the nomination. Worse, they suggest he is a diva who relishes “carbon-spewing private jet” travel. Not exactly a good look for a candidate who is constantly barking about climate change and the size of America’s carbon footprint.
There is no doubt the heated rift over Sanders is reopening old wounds. The prize thus far for Sanders furor goes to The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald who in defense of Sanders called MSNBC “a dishonest political operation, not a news outlet” for its allegedly slanted coverage of Sanders’ first 2020 campaign rally in Brooklyn, New York.
Taken as a whole, the message from institutional Democrats and their allies in the media is simple: Just please go away, Bernie.
So what exactly triggers so many Democrats when it comes to the 77-year-old self-avowed socialist from Vermont?
They know this time around “Sanders is not playing around” and that he could conceivably win the nomination.
Think about it. Unlike in 2016, the Democratic Presidential primary won’t be rigged against him.
Further, in a crowded field, like the one currently taking shape on the left side of the aisle for 2020, Bernie’s biggest strength “is his ability to thrive on chaos,” says The Washington Post’s David Byler.
Sanders has strong name ID, a loyal and committed set of core supporters, the ability to raise money like a televangelist and an online presence that you just can’t buy, especially when it comes to Facebook. He also polls exceedingly well with Democrats who make less than $50,000 a year.
One could easily envision a scenario where Sanders captures lightning in a bottle and wins Iowa and New Hampshire right off the bat, making him the undisputed early front-runner and a primetime player for the nomination.
That said, should Sanders ultimately go on to receive the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination, the general election against President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE poses some real problems for Sanders, and the brain trust behind the Democratic Party knows it. A quick glance at the 2020 swing states reveals an electoral map unfavorable to Sanders.
Take Arizona, a “must win” state for Trump in 2020, and one he had some difficulty winning in 2016. In a head-to-head matchup with Trump, Sanders trails Trump by 12 points, 49 percent to 37 percent, in a recent survey. Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York woman arrested after allegedly spitting on Jewish children Former Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE, who hasn’t even officially declared his candidacy, is in a dead-heat with Trump in the Grand Canyon State.
What explains Sanders’ poor early general election showing in the state? Chances are Arizonans don’t look too fondly upon half-baked socialist policy prescriptions as well as past praise for breadlines and communist nations being pushed by a millionaire with three houses who is constantly grousing about fairness.
The same goes for Florida, the ultimate electoral prize for a presidential nominee in 2020. Between Sanders doing his best Joropo dance around the “Maduro question” and progressive Andrew Gillum (D-Fla.) coming up short in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, it’s hard to see how Sanders can win the Sunshine State in a general election.
There are also questions about enthusiasm and voter intensity for Sanders among African-Americans. There is little doubt in my mind that if Sanders were to become the Democratic nominee he would handily win the black vote. But as Hillary Clinton learned in 2016 in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the raw number of voters turning out is far more important than the percent differential with Trump. This problem appears to plague Sanders among other minority groups as well.
But let’s just say that Sanders doesn’t break through in the 2020 nominating contest and instead just puddles along picking off a state here and there. Will he bow out when the writing is on the wall? Not likely. If past is prologue, Sanders will stubbornly stick it out until the bitter end, potentially tarnishing the eventual nominee and damaging the Democratic party’s ability to mend fences and rally the party together. After all, this is his last presidential hurrah, and he has already filed for re-election to the Senate in 2024.
Both of these scenarios are why the White House views Bernie 2.0 as a dream come true. And frankly, it doesn’t take a seasoned political analyst to see why.
Ford O'Connell served as director of rural outreach for John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Redistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race MORE’s 2008 presidential campaign; he runs a political consulting business, is an adjunct professor at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, and is a regular commentator on FOX Business. He has also appeared on CNN. Follow him on Twitter @FordOConnell.