Share
News

Campaign Strategist in Chief: Trump Stoking Democratic Party Divisions by Defending Bernie

Share

As tensions between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren rose earlier this month, Sanders found himself with an unusual ally: President Donald Trump.

During a raucous campaign rally in which Trump critiqued some of his Democratic challengers, the president launched into an unprompted defense of Sanders. Warren had accused Sanders of telling her that a woman couldn’t win the White House in November, but Sanders insisted he would never say such a thing.

Trump concurred.

“I don’t believe that Bernie said that. I really don’t,” Trump told his supporters. “It’s not the kind of thing he would say.”

As the Democratic primary intensifies before the first contests to decide the nominee, Trump and his allies have issued a series of curiously favorable comments about Sanders. They’ve played up the Vermont senator’s electoral strength and fundraising prowess. And they’ve suggested that if Sanders doesn’t secure the nomination, it will be because the party rigged the primary against him.

Trending:
'Holiday Nightmare Comes True' When Man Makes Strange Discovery in a Ravine on His Property

It’s a sentiment that resonates with some Sanders’ backers who believe the Democratic National Committee worked against him in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won the nomination.

In offering occasional support for Sanders, Trump is taking a page out of his own playbook from the election four years ago and betting that the Democratic divisions that helped him win the White House are even deeper now.

Indeed, more moderate Democrats fear that Sanders — a self-described democratic socialist — would struggle to pull together a robust coalition in the general election. But they also worry his supporters might not vote in large enough numbers for any other nominee if Sanders fails in his second quest for the party’s nomination.

Both scenarios would benefit Trump. The president is closely monitoring the Democratic race, and has taken note of Sanders’ strong fundraising and polling, according to Republicans who have spoken with him about the election.

Do you think Bernie Sanders has a chance to win the 2020 Democratic nomination?

But if Sanders stumbles in the coming weeks, Trump is also said to see an opportunity to suppress some of the senator’s most ardent supporters, or even win over some of their votes.

For some Democrats, it’s a worrisome prospect.

“There are people who are very anti-establishment, who have a lot of oppositional feelings about the political establishment,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who advised Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “Sanders is appealing to them and if that doesn’t work for them, then the Trump team hopes they’ll come their way.”

Though Trump and Sanders are at odds on most major policy issues, they do have a few similarities otherwise.

Both rose to political prominence without the backing of their parties’ establishment, but now wield significant influence over those parties’ policy positions. Both men have forged visceral connections with lower income voters, in part by pledging to revamp trade policies they say have hurt American workers.

Related:
Trump Issues Big Thanksgiving Message That Has Supporters Thrilled

In 2016, Sanders and Trump did share a small number of voters. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 3 percent of voters who consistently backed Sanders in 2016 Democratic primary voted for Trump in the general election. Another 11 percent of Sanders supporters voted for third party candidates over Clinton.

David Riley Campbell, 23, was among the Sanders supported who didn’t back Clinton against Trump (Campbell said he didn’t vote for anyone in the general election). He said he’s learned his lesson and will be “going blue no matter who” in 2020. Still, he acknowledged he would be “much, much less enthusiastic” about a candidate other than Sanders.

“There’s a very short list of candidates I trust,” said Campbell, who is volunteering in Iowa for Sanders before the Feb. 3 caucus.

It’s that lingering distrust of other Democrats among Sanders supporters that Trump’s team is eager to capitalize on if the senator falters in the coming weeks.

Trump has sent multiple tweets over the past week suggesting Democrats were “rigging the election” against Sanders because he was being pulled off the campaign trail to serve as a juror in the Senate impeachment trial during the final weeks before the caucus. (Of course, three other senators– including Warren of Massachusetts, Sanders’ chief progressive rival — were also marooned in Washington for the trial.)

On Thursday, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway wrote in The Washington Post that if Democrats were serious about nominating the most electable candidate, they would side with Sanders.

He’s the candidate, Conway wrote, “who actually won primary contests and proved he can play David to Goliath in key places four short years ago.”

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, said those comments don’t change the fact that the president sees Sanders as a someone who could be a “complete disaster” in the White House. Yet Murtaugh also gave a nod to Sanders’ supporters, saying it’s “obvious the knives are out” for the senator in the Democratic primary.

“It would be completely understandable if the Sanders camp said, ‘Here we go again,’” Murtaugh said.

Trump used a similar strategy in 2016. He urged Sanders to run as an independent after Sanders fell behind Clinton in the race for delegates, which determine the Democratic nominee, and openly courted Sanders’ supporters.

Four years later, at least some of Sanders’ backers say they’re aware of Trump’s strategy.

“What they’re trying to do is throw a wrench into the works. They’re trying to do whatever they can to keep us at each other’s throats,” said Randy Bryce, a Sanders supporter and former Wisconsin congressional candidate.

Sanders’ campaign did not respond to questions about the favorable comments from the president and his advisers, but earlier this month, Sanders distanced himself from Trump’s assertions that Democrats were rigging the 2020 primary against him.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →



We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
, , , , , , ,
Share
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




Conversation

Notice: Due to threatened de-monetization, we have temporarily removed commenting while we build a long-term commenting solution that allows you to voice your opinion freely and allows us to continue to publish the news fearlessly and cover topics that you care about. If you would like to personally partner with The Western Journal to help us continue publishing while under relentless assault by Big Tech, please visit our subscription page here. We encourage you to share this article and discuss with your friends.