Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) may be well behind in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination but, his campaign says, he’s staying in the contest, regardless, and will attend the next debate in April, if one takes place.
The Vermont socialist is aiming to win the New York primary, which is set to take place on April 28, and held a call with more than a thousand supporters earlier this week, where his campaign outlined organizing efforts and a plan for online meet-ups where supporters will make phone calls to select Democratic voters in the state.
“The Sanders campaign says they hosted a volunteer call with thousands of New York supporters this week,” according to NBC News, “signing up more than 1,300 call and text shifts. The campaign is using their proprietary ‘BERN’ app and old-fashioned phone banking, as well as organizing ‘Digital house parties,’ while New Yorkers are holed up at home.”
Two weeks ago, after losing the last round of primaries held before most of the country went into coronavirus lockdown, Sanders told a crowd in Vermont that he was “reassessing” his campaign and that he and his staff would make a decision in the coming weeks as to whether it is worth it to continue pressing forward until the Democratic National Convention in July, even though there doesn’t appear to be a mathematical path to victory for Sanders.
Monday night, Sanders updated his message to say the campaign was taking things “day by day.”
“We are in a bizarre moment,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in an interview Monday night, “so what we are doing is transitioning our campaign to a virtual campaign…We’re kind of moving day by day,”
Tuesday evening, the mood was different.
“Bernie Sanders is still a candidate for the Democratic nomination,” a Sanders senior adviors told NBC News after the network reported on Sanders’ efforts to community organize in New York state. “One of the things that means is working to secure votes in future contests.”
“If there is a debate in April, he plans to be there,” another aide told Fox News, confirming NBC’s report.
Sanders may be trying to capitalize off weaknesses in former Vice President Joe Biden’s efforts. On Monday, Biden launched a series of “shadow briefings” on the coronavirus pandemic, meant to outshine President Donald Trump’s daily addresses on the subject and draw attention to the Trump administration’s shortcomings on virus response.
The first “shadow briefing,” though, fell flat, and Biden flubbed a media blitz meant to promote his presidential campaign, appearing on several networks, but giving almost inscrutable “updates” on his team’s efforts to combat the deadly disease.
Sanders might see an opening among Democrats who are increasingly worried that Biden appears “weak” alongside Trump, and is likely hopeful that canceled early April primaries, in places like Wisconsin, mean Biden won’t be able to secure enough delegates to meet the Democratic National Committee’s 1,991-delegate threshold, leaving the nomination up for grabs.
Unfortunately for Sanders, Democrats may not necessarily be impressed with his efforts, either. Sanders says he has been busy in session, hammering out a bipartisan coronavirus relief deal in the Senate. Last week, though, as the Senate voted on the initial legislative relief package, Sanders was busy hosting an online townhall with members of the “squad,” including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), not voting on the bill.