Former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, has a message for Democrats seeking to dethrone President Donald Trump in 2020: don’t nominate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Messina made the comments in an interview with Politico, published Sunday.
“If I were a campaign manager for Donald Trump and I look at the field, I would very much want to run against Bernie Sanders,” Messina said. “I think the contrast is the best. He can say, ‘I’m a business guy, the economy’s good and this guy’s a socialist.’ I think that contrast for Trump is likely one that he’d be excited about in a way that he wouldn’t be as excited about Biden or potentially Mayor Pete or some of the more Midwestern moderate candidates.”
“From a general election perspective, socialism is not going to be what Democrats are going to want to defend,” Messina added. “If you’re the Democratic nominee for the Montana Senate race, you don’t want to spend the election talking about socialism.”
Team Obama has been sounding the alarm on Sanders for some time, apparently afraid that Democrats will squander an opportunity to defeat the sitting president by nominating a candidate popular with only a small — but vocal — segment of the population.
The former president himself told a group of Democratic donors late last year that he felt the Democratic party was making a mistake in embracing a far-left platform and tolerating Sanders as a serious candidate.
“Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision we also have to be rooted in reality,” Obama told a group of donors at a fundraiser back in late November. “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”
Word has it that Obama has been telling key Democrats that, while he prefers to keep the 2020 Democratic nomination process at arm’s length, that he’d step in and speak up if Sanders took a commanding lead in the primaries, so that he could head off an inevitable electoral disaster.
Messina hasn’t declared a preference in the 2020 primaries, but his wife reportedly works for former Vice President Joe Biden. Obama himself has shied away from endorsing Biden for the nomination — he has, instead, spoken highly of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Their advice tracks with polling, which shows only Biden giving Trump trouble in “Rust Belt” battleground states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, and only Biden and Warren coming near Trump in places like Nevada, Arizona, and Florida.
When Obama made his statements, back in November, Sanders looked to be out of the running for the nomination. Indeed, in the same Hill story that reported Obama’s back-door dealings, aides, speaking anonymously to the Washington, D.C., based outlet, said they saw Sanders as an outlier and unlikely to snag the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
In recent days, though, Sanders hasn’t looked so weak, surging to the front of the field in Iowa, per the Des Moines Register, and popping up nearly 10 points nationally, easily leapfrogging Warren, former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, and even Joe Biden (though Biden wasn’t expected to make a strong showing in Iowa). Sanders is also one of only five candidates to make the January debate stage, and the DNC is signaling that no one left off is likely to make inroads among early primary voters.