Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says that he’ll remain on the campaign trail and continue running for the 2020 Democratic nomination, despite having a heart attack and major heart surgery just last week.
The nearly 80-year-old Senator did say, however, that he will slow down his breakneck pace and whittle his calender of events down to a manageable level after realizing that he ignored the warning signs of heart trouble until it was just too late.
The Hill reports that Sanders made the announcement Tuesday morning after consulting with his personal cardiologist.
“I certainly intend to be actively campaigning,” Sanders told reporters. “I think we can change the nature of the campaign a bit, make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do.”
He added that he believes the scale down will simply put him on the same level as other candidates, as he was taking “in some cases five or six meetings a day,” and doing “three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people” — a packed schedule.
He’s not wrong; Sanders has campaigned hard, particularly in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and has held more events than many of his competitors, and has been on the campaign trail for far longer. Sanders has been running for the nomination since late 2018. Former Vice President Joe Biden, by comparison, launched his campaign in April.
Sanders suffered what he now says was a heart attack last week during a stop in Las Vegas, Nevada. After being driven to the hospital with what his campaign described as “chest pains,” doctors placed two stents in a blocked coronary artery. He spent only two days in the hospital, though the Sanders for President campaign suspended all events through the weekend.
On Tuesday morning, Sanders told reporters that the heart attack wasn’t sudden and that he was “dumb” to miss a handful of “warning signs” he says his body was sending him ahead of the incident.
Sanders doesn’t have any events on the calendar for this week and his campaign says that, while he will return to the trail soon, they’re postponing meetings and rallys “indefinitely.” Sanders posted a video to Twitter over the weekend reassuring supporters that he was not ending his campaign and that he’d see them on the trail “soon.”
He may take additional time off to tend to his family, as well. His daughter in law, Raine Riggs, died Tuesday just two days after receiving a cancer diagnosis, according to Newsweek.
Regardless of what Sanders believes about his own campaign, the incident has drawn questions about candidate age. Sanders is 78, but Biden is not far behind at 76. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the current frontrunner in most early primary states and in many recent national polls, is 70. President Donald Trump is 73. No Democratic candidate with a real chance of winning the nomination is under the age of 50.
Aside from the health scare, though, Sanders has no clear reason to drop out of the race. He “significantly” outraised Joe Biden in the second quarter of 2019 and narrowly edged out Warren with a $25 million haul, according to Vox Media. If Sanders were to end his campaign because of health reasons, he would not only close the door on the nomination prematurely, but he’d lose any cache he might have with the future Democratic nominee.