President Donald Trump is more politically savvy than the left-wing media would have us believe.
This past week, the president focused some pointed attacks of Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders (I-VT), suggesting that Trump sees the Vermont senator as a threat – at least when it comes to rural America. On Thursday, Trump said at a campaign rally in Ohio that that “crazy Bernie” didn’t like that the U.S. military killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, whom Trump called “the world’s top terrorist.” Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign then released a statement saying Sanders “can’t be trusted to defend American lives” if he were to become president.
Earlier that week, Trump’s campaign also called Sanders a “wealthy, fossil fuel-guzzling millionaire” who, “lectures Americans how to live their lives while doing the exact opposite.”
“Bernie Sanders is lecturing the American people that they need to pay more in taxes, surrender their private health insurance plans, and accept job losses in order to implement his extreme, left-wing agenda,” the campaign said in a press release. “But he’s just another Hollywood-style hypocrite who demands working class Americans make sacrifices while he plays by his own rules and enjoys a lavish lifestyle.”
The Hill reported that “some Trump allies” hold “a level of respect for Sanders, who they view as having built an outsider movement in the same vein as Trump despite receiving unfair treatment from the media and the national party.”
Sanders’ campaign understands why Trump would come after the Vermont senator: His appeal to rural Americans.
“You know you’re doing well when you get attacked in politics, and the biggest concern in politics is if you don’t get any attacks because then you’re irrelevant,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who has been advising Sanders’ presidential campaign. “I’ve heard reports in private from people that Trump doesn’t actually underestimate him. He understands Sanders’s appeal to rural America. He understands Sanders’s appeal to working class voters.”
Whether that’s true or not will never be known, but Trump’s allies are not sitting back and assuming former Vice President Joe Biden will be the nominee just because he’s the predictable candidate and leading in the polls. A recent Iowa poll showed Sanders in the lead just three weeks ahead of the caucus. Sanders captured 20% of likely Democratic caucusgoers. Behind Sanders was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 17%, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 16% (he previously led the poll in November), and Biden at 15%.
Nationally, Sanders trails Biden by nine points according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.
As for what the Trump campaign will do if Sanders is the nominee well, that’s easy.
“Imagine the crazy stuff he was saying in local radio interviews when he was mayor in Burlington, Vermont, or a congressman in late 80s and early 90s and got zero media coverage,” a Trump ally told the Hill. “So far, Republicans have just played softball with Bernie and used him as a cudgel to attack other Democrats. We don’ know how Bernie will act or how it could affect him if he had the right wing kill machine aimed at him.”